The Role of Processed Foods in the Onset and Persistence of Crohn’s Disease

by | Jan 16, 2024 | News

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. It is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract, causing symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune condition, meaning that the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells of the digestive tract.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not well understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunological factors. The inflammation in Crohn’s disease can penetrate deep into the layers of the bowel tissue and can lead to complications such as ulcers, strictures (narrowing of the intestine), and fistulas (abnormal connections between different parts of the intestine or between the intestine and other organs).

Recently, there has been growing consideration of food additives as key contributors to microbial alterations that fuel inflammation. Emulsifiers and nanoparticles have been the primary additives under examination. Emulsifiers, commonly found in highly processed foods, serve to homogenize, prolong shelf life, and enhance food texture. Additionally, various other additives have been associated with Crohn’s disease. Artificial sweeteners like sucralose and saccharin, for instance, have been linked to the promotion of pro-inflammatory Proteobacteria, which is believed to play a role in Crohn’s disease.

Research supports the notion that dietary factors, especially pro-inflammatory ultra-processed food containing food additives, in early life may be a key risk for the later development of Crohn’s disease. Individuals with Crohn’s disease exhibit a higher prevalence of early-life consumption of food additives compared to a diverse range of control subjects, spanning various geographic and ethnic backgrounds. 

The study lends support to the theory that these additives may act as permissive environmental factors, potentially triggering the onset of Crohn’s disease in susceptible individuals. Moreover, ongoing consumption of current food additives is more prevalent in Crohn’s disease patients, suggesting a potential role in sustaining inflammation. These discoveries bear significance in terms of disease prevention and may serve as valuable insights for the management of existing cases.


1.Trakman GL, Lin WYY, Hamilton AL, Wilson-O’Brien AL, Stanley A, Ching JY, Yu J, Mak JWY, Sun Y, Niu J, Miao Y, Lin X, Feng R, Chen M, Shivappa N, Hebert JR, Morrison M, Ng SC, Kamm MA. Processed Food as a Risk Factor for the Development and Perpetuation of Crohn’s Disease-The ENIGMA Study. Nutrients. 2022 Sep 2;14(17):3627. doi: 10.3390/nu14173627. PMID: 36079885; PMCID: PMC9460819.


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