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Study Suggests Link Between Eating Red Meat and Crohn's Disease

Jul 15, 2005 | The Guardian

Scientists have been asked to investigate a possible link between eating meat and Crohn's disease, a debilitating illness affecting 100,000 Britons.

A study of the diets and lifestyles of 218 patients has revealed a statistical association with eating beef or canned meat such as corned beef.

The two-year study by researchers at the University of East Anglia has cleared dairy products, previously considered a possible factor in the disease, and tap water.

 They asked patients only about meat consumption, since it had not been considered a likely source of infection.

Yet results suggested the chances of someone with Crohn's being a meat eater were 40% greater than those of someone without the disease being a meat eater.

The Food Standards Agency is asking its food safety advisers to consider what research may be necessary to establish more firmly whether there is a link.

Last month, a study revealed those who ate two portions of red meat a day had a 35% greater risk of developing bowel cancer than those who ate one portion a week.

The agency said its advice on eating meat remained the same - it could be eaten as part of a balanced and varied diet as it was a good source of iron, zinc, B vitamins and protein.

Officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the link might be a statistical blip or linked to total protein intake rather than a single infectious agent.

Paul Hunter, lead researcher on the government-funded project, said: "The findings related to both water and dairy consumption are reassuring.

"The other dietary associations at this stage do not indicate a cause and effect relationship."

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