No link found between diverticular disease and consumption of nuts, seeds, and corn

No link found between diverticular disease and consumption of nuts, seeds, and corn

A new study published in the August 27 issue of JAMA reports good news for men who enjoy nuts, corn, or popcorn. Researchers studying a large cohort of men have found that consumption of these foods does not increase the risk of diverticulosis or diverticular complications - a conclusion that is contrary to common beliefs.

Diverticular disease is characterized by having diverticula in the colon, and it often leads to diverticulitis and diverticular bleeding. In Western countries, it is a common and costly digestive disorder, affecting about one-third of the U.S. population by age 60 and two-thirds of the U.S. population by age 85 years. Due to the potential for foods like nuts, corn, seeds, and popcorn to damage diverticula and mucosa and to cause inflammation and bleeding, physicians have recommended that individuals with diverticular disease should avoid eating these foods. However, there is little evidence to actually support this guideline. Researchers fear that the health benefits of nut consumption are being missed by a large number of individuals with diverticulosis since these people have been following these poorly-defended consumption guidelines.

Lisa L. Strate, M.D., M.P.H. (University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle) and colleagues studied a large group of men to investigate the link between diverticular disease and nut, corn, and popcorn consumption. The cohort consisted of a group of men who were followed up from 1986 to 2004 through self-administered surveys about medical and dietary health, every two and four years, respectively. In this Health Professionals Follow-up Study cohort, 27% of reported eating nuts at least twice per week, and 15% reported consuming corn and popcorn at least twice a week.

At baseline there were 47,228 men age 40 to 75 years who did not have diverticulosis or its complications, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers investigated 18 years of data on these participants and found that there were 801 new cases of diverticulitis and 383 new cases of diverticular bleeding.

Ultimately, consumption of nuts, corn, and popcorn were not found to be associated with an increased risk of new diverticulitis or diverticular complications. In fact, there was an inverse relationship noted between nut and popcorn consumption and the risk of diverticulitis. The researchers employed a statistical analysis to adjust for known and potential diverticular complication risk factors and found that men who consumed the most nuts (at least twice per week) had a 20% lower risk of diverticulitis compared with men who ate nuts less than once per month. In addition, participants who consumed a relatively large amount of popcorn had a 28% reduction in diverticulitis risk compared to men with the lowest popcorn intake.

There was no statistical association found between corn consumption and diverticulitis or between nut, corn, or popcorn consumption and diverticular bleeding.

The authors conclude that, "Our results suggest that nut, corn, and popcorn consumption is not associated with an increased risk of incident diverticulitis or diverticular bleeding and may be protective for the former. These findings refute the pervasive but unproven belief that these foods are associated with diverticular complications and suggest that the recommendation to avoid these foods in diverticular disease should be reconsidered."

Nut, Corn, and Popcorn Consumption and the Incidence of Diverticular Disease

Lisa L. Strate; Yan L. Liu; Sapna Syngal; Walid H. Aldoori; Edward L. Giovannucci

JAMA . 300[8]: pp. 907-914.

Click Here to View Abstract

Diet for Diverticulitis: Recommendations and Myths (Video Medical And Professional 2020).

Section Issues On Medicine: Disease