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Linoleic Acid Linked To Ulcerative Colitis

Linoleic Acid and Ulcerative Colitis

A high intake of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid found in red meat and in many oils and some margarines, may be associated with nearly 33 percent of cases of ulcerative colitis. It is estimated that more than 500,000 Americans suffer with ulcerative colitis.

This latest study, published in the online journal Gut, involved more than 200,000 participants from five European countries who submitted questionnaires about their dietary intake. The incidence of ulcerative colitis was determined by evaluating data from follow-up questionnaires, disease registries, and hospital and pathology databases.

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After a four-year follow-up period, the investigators found that the participants who had the highest intake of foods rich in linoleic acid had 2.5 times higher risk for developing ulcerative colitis than participants who ate the least amount of such foods. Oils such as safflower, hemp, sunflower, corn, wheat germ, cottonseed, soybean, walnut, and sesame are high in linoleic acid. Given that many foods, especially fast foods, are fried in such oils, it can be easy for individuals to consume high levels of linoleic acid.

The study’s investigators note that their findings likely underestimate the actual impact of linoleic acid. They also stated that if the association is verified, there is great potential to reduce the number of people who will develop ulcerative colitis if the population can be convinced to modify their diet.

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease and is a chronic condition that affects the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and the development of open sores (ulcers) in the large intestine and rectum. Ulcerative colitis can seriously affect an individual’s ability to work, travel, or perform routine activities. An effort to significantly reduce or eliminate foods that contain linoleic acid from the diet may have a positive impact on the number of ulcerative colitis cases.

Sources: Online Gut July 23, 2009
Caption: Ulcerative colitis affects the GI tract