A healthier lifestyle, diet lower the risk for diverticulitis

December 5, 2017

A study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that men with a low-risk lifestyle may be less likely to develop diverticulitis—an inflammation of small pouches in the walls of the colon. Given that there is little research in this area, the researchers were interested in understanding what places people at risk for diverticulitis, and what risk factors are modifiable to prevent the disorder.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 51,000 men aged 40–75 in 1986 at the beginning of the Health Professionals Follow Up Study. More than 90% of the men were followed through the end of December 2012. At the beginning and every two years for 26 years, the participants answered questions about their lifestyles and medical histories. For this study, the researchers focused on five lifestyle risk factors associated with diverticulitis: total red meat intake, dietary fiber intake, vigorous physical activity, smoking, and body mass index (BMI). For each of these risk factors, the researchers divided men into five groups from highest to lowest.

Using these categories, the researchers defined a low-risk lifestyle as average red meat intake of less than 52 g (about 2 oz) per 2,000 daily calories or less than four 5-oz servings weekly, dietary fiber intake of at least 23 g (0.8 oz) per day, two or more hours of vigorous physical activity per week, normal BMI, and being a never-smoker.

During the follow-up years, there were a total 907 new cases of diverticulitis, and researchers found an inverse relationship between the number of low-risk lifestyle factors an individual had and his odds of getting diverticulitis. Compared with men who met none of the low-risk lifestyle criteria, those with one low-risk lifestyle factor were 29% less likely to have diverticulitis, while men with two low-risk factors were 34% less likely to have the condition. Men with three or four low-risk factors had about half the risk of diverticulitis and men with all five low-risk factors had about 70% lower risk.

The researchers concluded that there is definitely an association between one’s diet and lifestyle and their risk of developing diverticulitis.