New Chron’s Study: Dietary Intervention

A new study is focusing on dietary intervention among patients with Crohn’s disease. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute awarded the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) $2.5 million to study the effectiveness of specific diets to induce remission in patients with Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and fatigue and as of now, cannot be cured. IBD is not caused by any one particular food, but particular foods may aggravate symptoms in some patients. The new national research study will evaluate the specific carbohydrate diet and Mediterranean-style diet.

So far, there have been few clinical trials aimed at guiding dietary modifications in an attempt to help manage symptoms and inflammation in patients with IBD.

“I’ve always been curious why many IBD patients can only achieve remission via medication, while some are able to manage their symptoms with dietary changes,” Jessica Burris, a member of the patient governance committee of CCFA’s patient-powered research network, said in a statement. “When it comes to diet and IBD, patients are often told everybody is different, but little is known regarding what those differences are and how they can be applied to clinical practice. I believe knowledge from this study can positively impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients living with Crohn’s disease.”

This inquiry was the reason there was motivation for the study, which is being conducted by James Lewis, MD, MSCE, professor of medicine and senior scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The study will compare the 2 above-mentioned diets and their effectiveness in inducing remission and reducing the mucosal inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease. The specific carbohydrate diet is already popular among patients and literature is starting to suggest there is a potential therapeutic benefit. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean-style diet has strong evidence backing up its role in overall health. This evidence may suggest a potential benefit for Crohn’s disease specifically.

“There is little scientific evidence to guide patients with Crohn’s on how they should modify their diet. Because of this, patients and their physicians face substantial uncertainty about the best diet for Crohn’s,” said Dr. Lewis. “This study will open the door to more holistic treatment of Crohn’s disease and provide high quality data and guidance for incorporating diet modifications into the treatment of IBD.”

Patients can enroll in the trial at local clinical sites and will randomly be assigned one of the 2 diets. They will receive meals at no cost for 6 weeks and patient-reported outcomes will be used to assess disease activity, which will also be assessed by the treating physician before the study, at 6 weeks, and at 12 weeks.

One patient with Crohn’s disease who is playing a lead role on the research team, Andrea Meyer, said that she has figured out that certain foods can trigger her Crohn’s disease symptoms, while other do not; however, many patients are wary of using diet modifications because there is limited science supporting it.

“We need to change the conversation on diet and nutrition and its use in managing IBD symptoms, and we need research data in order to do so,” she said.