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Health Team

Diet don’ts for diverticulosis patients may change

Posted August 26, 2008 5:50 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2008 9:28 p.m. EDT

For years, doctors have warned people with diverticulosis to stay away from foods like popcorn, nuts or corn because they may raise the risk of more bleeding in the colon.

Now, researchers have found that diverticulosis patients may not need to avoid those foods after all.

A third of all Americans will develop diverticulosis – small pockets in the colon – by age 60. If the pockets become infected, it can lead to a more serious condition called diverticulitis.

“It can be serious. It can lead to operations, surgery, colon perforations – death, even, in rare instances,” said gastroenterologist and study author Dr. Sapna Syngal, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s analyzed data from more than 47,000 men. Questionnaires were used to monitor what the men ate and their medical condition every two years. Researchers specifically looked at the link between eating things like popcorn, nuts and corn and the incidence of diverticulitis.

“To our surprise, there was no association with nut, popcorn or corn intake and the development of diverticulitis or diverticular bleeding,” Syngal said.

Participants were followed for 18 years. Men who ate popcorn, nuts and corn more than twice a week were no more likely to develop the disease than those who only ate those food less than once a month.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“The people who had higher intakes of nuts and popcorn had a lower rate of diverticulitis. So it actually went against what has been believed for a long period of time,” Syngal said.

Researchers believe the findings may also hold true for women, but can't say for sure until studies involving women are conducted.

Doctors don't have the answer for how to avoid complications from diverticulosis. Further studies are needed to see if certain foods may actually protect you from developing diverticulitis.