The Dietary Science Foundation
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Approximately one in ten people suffer from IBS. Both children and adults endure daily abdominal pain, the cause of which is unknown. There are no effective, established dietary treatments and many people suffer for years. To strengthen knowledge in this area, the Dietary Science Foundation has invested in a study that will evaluate how different types of carbohydrates impact the disease.
“A lot of peope have problems with their bowels. The sickest come to us. Many just try to get through the workday and afterwards they collapse onto the sofa. They exclude themselves from social activities and it really affects their lives,” says dietician and researcher Stine Størsrud at the Gastrointestinal lab, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Gothenburg, who will lead the study.
She will be evaluating the role of carbohydrates in IBS, as many gas-producing bacteria feed on carbohydrates. For example a study from 2013 showed that a diet low in FODMAPs can offer pain relief. Low-FODMAP means minimizing the intake of certain plant fibers, sugars and sugar alcohols that feed colon bacteria. Carbohydrates that are hard to digest are replaced with more easily digestible varieties that the small intestine can absorb.
A low-FODMAP diet can be effective for many patients, but not for all. The question is: could additional people be helped if even more carbohydrates were removed from the diet? Diabetologists say that patients who start eating a low-carbohydrate diet to lower their blood sugar often see an improvement in their digestive systems. Similar stories can be heard from people who try a low-carbohydrate diet to lose weight. A small pilot study from 2009 showed that 10 out of 13 people who ate a strict low-carbohydrate diet for four weeks greatly improved their digestion.
To gain a better understanding of the role that carbohydrates play in IBS, Stine Størsrud will be conducting a randomized controlled trial of 250 patients with IBS, comparing the effect of a low-FODMAP diet with both a strict low-carbohydrate diet and a conventional dietary treatment. Patients will take part in the dietary intervention for four weeks. To ensure that participants eat the recommended diet, grocery bags with recipes and meal suggestions will be delivered to them. After the intervention, Stine Størsrud will continue to follow the patients for three months.
The Dietary Science Foundation’s scientific advisory board has judged the study’s design to be of high quality and it has the potential to be of importance to many people. If the strict low-carbohydrate diet turns out to be effective in IBS, a whole new treatment can be established.
The Dietary Science Foundation has invested €60,000 in the study and the insurance company Skandia’s research fund has contributed nearly €200,000. The study starts in the spring of 2017 with results expected after about two years.