Researchers have uncovered an unexplained increase in diverticulitis hospitalizations during the summer months.

From January 1, 1997, through December 31, 2005, average total nonelective admissions for diverticulitis in a 20% sample of U.S. community hospitals were lowest in February, with 23,744 admissions, and highest in August, with 29,733 admissions — a 25.2% increase in cases.

“The excess summer burden of diverticulitis was noted across U.S. census regions, age, sex, and race, indicating universality to these findings,” pointed out investigators (Arch Surg. 2011;146:319-323). “Thus, it is unlikely that this summer predilection for diverticulitis is related to a particular demographic group or other seasonal climate changes.”

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The researchers noted that admissions for appendicitis — which, like diverticulitis, is an acute inflammatory condition of the GI tract — are also more common in summer months. Research into the appendicitis phenomenon has raised the possibility of an infectious cause, which may apply to diverticulitis as well.

Seasonal dietary changes could also play a role in the cyclical jump in diverticulitis hospitalizations. Fresh fruits and vegetables — often consumed in summer months — could have more of a role in diverticulitis than previously considered, as could potential seasonal changes in fiber intake.