High Fat Diet Reduces Gut Bacteria and Fights Against Crohn's Disease

New research suggests that a high fat diet could reduce the bacteria of the gut and, therefore, fight against the harmful inflammation that Crohn’s disease patients experience.
Published Online: July 14, 2017
Alison Rodriguez
New research suggests that a high fat diet could reduce the bacteria of the gut and, therefore, fight against the harmful inflammation that Crohn’s disease patients experience.

In Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine’s study, the researchers observed a significant decrease in bacterial diversity in mice with Crohn’s-like disease when they were on a plant diet with “good” fats like coconut oil and cocoa butter. The study found that mice on the “good” fat diet had up to 30% fewer types of bacteria in the gut when compared to those fed their normal diet.

There was an apparent different microbial composition between those with the beneficial fat diet and those without. Some of the changes in the mice were found in the feces, while others were apparent in the cecum. Regardless of observation location, the study witnessed a decrease of severe intestine inflammation in mice fed even only low concentrations of coconut oil and cocoa butter.

“The finding is remarkable because it means that a Crohn’s patient could also have a beneficial effect on their gut bacteria and inflammation by only switching the type of fat in their diet,” Alexander Rodriguez-Palacios, DVM, DVSc, PhD, the first author on the study and assistant professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, said in a statement. “Patients would only need to replace a ‘bad’ fat with a ‘good’ fat, and eat normal amounts.”

Since this study is one of the first to indicate an association between changes in gut bacteria and Crohn’s disease, more studies are necessary to fully understand the influence of a “good” fat diet on fighting Crohn’s disease. Even so, results from this study could assist doctors in treating their patients with Crohn’s disease and help them identify the bacteria to use in a probiotic.

“Not all ‘good’ fats might be good in all patients,” warned Rodriguez-Palacios. “Mice indicate that each person could respond differently. But diet is something we are very hopeful could help at least some patients without the side-effects and risks carried by drugs. The trick now is to really discover what makes a fat ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for Crohn’s disease.”

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