Increased intake of dietary fiber has been proposed to reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease [CD] and ulcerative colitis [UC]). However, few prospective studies have examined associations between long-term intake of dietary fiber and risk of incident CD or UC.
We collected and analyzed data from 170,776 women, followed up over 26 years, who participated in the Nurses' Health Study, followed up for 3,317,425 person-years. Dietary information was prospectively ascertained via administration of a validated semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire every 4 years. Self-reported CD and UC were confirmed through review of medical records. Cox proportional hazards models, adjusting for potential confounders, were used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs).
We confirmed 269 incident cases of CD (incidence, 8/100,000 person-years) and 338 cases of UC (incidence, 10/100,000 person-years). Compared with the lowest quintile of energy-adjusted cumulative average intake of dietary fiber, intake of the highest quintile (median of 24.3 g/day) was associated with a 40% reduction in risk of CD (multivariate HR for CD, 0.59; 95% confidence interval, 0.39-0.90). This apparent reduction appeared to be greatest for fiber derived from fruits; fiber from cereals, whole grains, or legumes did not modify risk. In contrast, neither total intake of dietary fiber (multivariate HR, 0.82; 95% confidence interval, 0.58-1.17) nor intake of fiber from specific sources appeared to be significantly associated with risk of UC.
Based on data from the Nurses' Health Study, long-term intake of dietary fiber, particularly from fruit, is associated with lower risk of CD but not UC. Further studies are needed to determine the mechanisms that mediate this association.