Crohn's disease causes debilitating intestinal swelling, cramping and diarrhoea. In the new study, a diet of plant-derived "good" fats, including coconut oil or cocoa butter, drastically reduced bacterial diversity in mice with Crohn's-like disease.
The researchers found that mice fed beneficial fatty diets had up to 30 per cent fewer kinds of gut bacteria as those fed a normal diet, collectively resulting in a very different gut microbial composition. Some of the species changes showed up in faeces, while others were different in cecum, a portion of the intestine commonly inflamed in Crohn's disease. Mice fed even low concentrations of coconut oil or cocoa butter had less severe small intestine inflammation.
"The finding is remarkable because it means that a Crohn's patient could also have a beneficial effect on their gut bacteria and inflammation by only switching the type of fat in their diet," said first author on the study Alexander Rodriguez-Palacios, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in in Cleveland, Ohio, US.
"Patients would only need to replace a 'bad' fat with a 'good' fat, and eat normal amounts," Rodriguez-Palacios said.
The findings could help doctors identify bacteria to use in probiotics to treat patients suffering from inflammatory bowel syndromes.
Inputs from IANS