Higher Risk of Death with Processed Meat Consumption in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

EYE-OPENING evidence linking frequent consumption of processed meat with higher risk of death in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has been reported by Jie Chen and colleagues at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. These findings are also of particular note to those living with Crohn’s disease (CD), where a similar relationship was observed, but not so much for those with ulcerative colitis (UC). The role of meat consumption has been established in the development and incidence of IBD, but this investigation contributed data on the risk of all-cause mortality associated with meat consumption in patients with IBD, which was previously unknown.

The current study evaluated 5,763 patients with IBD from the UK Biobank, a large-scale UK database, between 2007 and 2010, assessing as the main outcome all-cause mortality in association with meat consumption. Baseline dietary information was collected using food frequency questionnaires, and deaths were based on death registry records; the average length of follow-up was 11.7 years (concluded in March 2021). Patients were a mean age of 57, of which 53% were female, 68% of the study group had UC, meanwhile 32% had CD. During the investigation, 590 patients died. Consuming processed meat more than 4 times a week was associated with a higher risk of death (hazard ratio (HR): 1.53; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06–2.23; p=0.025) compared with consumption less than once a week. Eating more processed meat was also linked with higher risk of death in patients with CD (HR: 2.01; 95% CI: 1.12–3.62; p=0.020), but not amongst those with UC (HR: 1.27; 95% CI: 0.77–2.09; p=0.346). Unprocessed red meat, chicken, and fish were not tied to greater risk mortality.

Although this unfavourable relationship is not surprising and an “association with all-cause mortality in patients with IBD would be expected” as described by Stephen Hanauer, Northwestern University of Chicago, USA, the study does reinforce suspicions and further understanding. The researchers recommend “a re-modified diet with restricting processed meat as well as supplying an additional healthy diet for patients with IBD, using alone or in combination with pharmacotherapy.”