A western lifestyle, which commonly includes a diet containing higher amounts of saturated fats and calorie-dense but nutrient-poor foods, has been implicated as contributing to the onset of various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Using inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as an example, James D. Lewis, MD, MSCE, will discuss ongoing efforts by researchers to understand the role of diet in immune-mediated diseases at the session, Diet as Therapy: Lessons From Inflammatory Bowel Disease, on Tuesday from 9:00 – 10:00 am in Room W375b.
Dr. Lewis, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, will review current scientific data on the effect of dietary modification on the symptoms and disease activity measures in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
“Importantly, many patients believe that diet can be used as a treatment, but it has been difficult to define the optimal diet for patients with these diseases, and clinical trials addressing this question are largely lacking,” Dr. Lewis said.
In recent years, Dr. Lewis and his colleagues have begun to focus their research on how diet and the microorganisms that inhabit the human intestine may influence the course of IBD. He is the principal investigator for the DINE-CD trial of a specific carbohydrate diet versus a Mediterranean-style diet for Crohn’s disease. Dr. Lewis hopes that this research can help identify novel strategies for treating IBD that are not based on systemic immunosuppression.
“Moving from epidemiology to therapy with diet has proven to be hard for a number of reasons. Some potential mechanisms whereby food could be therapeutic include serving as a toxin or inflammatory stimulant, altering the microbiome, or through epigenetic changes,” he said. “Highly restrictive or complex diets may be effective but are very difficult to maintain. We need to understand the mechanisms that link diet to disease to better design dietary interventions.”