Consumption of minimally processed or unprocessed foods, especially fruits and vegetables, decreases risk for Crohn disease, but not ulcerative colitis (UC), according to study findings published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Researchers conducted a multi-center, prospective cohort study, called European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), to examine how dietary and lifestyle choices affect risk for chronic conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  For the current study, researchers analyzed a subgroup of the EPIC cohort, called EPIC-IBD, which included 413,590 patients (women, 68.6%; mean age, 51.7 years) with IBD.

Researchers measured intake of processed foods using patient-reported food frequency questionnaires that recorded average intakes of 98 to 260 food items over the past year and the NOVA food classification system that classified various foods into ultra-processed, minimally-processed, or unprocessed categories.

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High consumption of minimally processed or unprocessed foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, was associated with decreased risk for Crohn disease (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 0.54; 95% CI, 0.34-0.87 and aHR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.34-0.91, respectively). However, no association was observed between food processing and UC.

“This study suggests a beneficial impact of giving preference to the consumption of non-processed/minimally processed foods with regard to CD risk, particularly in persons who are at high risk for this disease such as first-degree relatives of CD patients,” the study authors wrote.

Study limitations include lack of continuous measurements of dietary intake to reflect changes over time, missed cases of IBD, potential differential bias, lack of generalizability outside of middle-aged women, potential confounding factors, and potential misclassification or lack of representation of some food items on the questionnaires.

Disclosures: Some study authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Meyer A, Dong C, Casagrande C, et al. Food processing and risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis: A European Prospective Cohort Study. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. Published online October 12, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2022.09.031

This article originally appeared on Gastroenterology Advisor