Disappointing Results from Small Study of Specific Carbohydrate Diet

A recent retrospective study (GT Wahbeh et al. JPGN 2017; 65: 289-92) examined seven patients who were receiving a modified specific carbohydrate diet (SCD).  While this is a small stud,y there are several lessons in this report and the thoughtful editorial (pg 266-67): “Alas, Who and What Can We Trust? Patients, Parents, Surrogate Markers of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet” by Stan Cohen (one of my partners).

The participants in the study had a median age of 11 yrs and received their mSCD for a median duration of 26 months.  Key finding: despite lack of symptoms, all subjects had ongoing active disease on endoscopy; the majority had normal biomarkers: CRP, albumin, and hematocrit and only mildly elevated calprotectin (median 201, range 65-312).

Dr. Cohen notes the following lessons from this study:

  • “First, the SCD is very restrictive and young patients often find it difficult to perpetuate”
  • “Families are often presumptive about how well they are doing. Significant signs of malnutrition and lack of weight gain may be ignored.”
  • Patients often “underreport their symptoms and overrerport their adherence.”
  • “Wahbeh et al have taught us…about the lack of effectiveness of a modified SCD [and]…we should use caution in gauging and interpreting patient-reported outcomes and surrogates as well.”

My take: The modified SCD appears to be only partly effective and how this impacts the long-term outcomes for patients is not clear.

Related article: A McCombie. JPGN 2017; 65: 311-13. Summer camp for IBD.  This study of 36 participants: “most reported that camp improved their confidence (86%), acceptance (83%), and overall quality of life (75%). 72% endorsed meeting their fellow campers as the most beneficial experience.  My take: Camp helps ease social isolation associated with a diagnosis of pediatric IBD.

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6 thoughts on “Disappointing Results from Small Study of Specific Carbohydrate Diet

  1. Thanks for posting this. However — the headline seems a little misleading since it is not the SCD itself that brought up disappointing results but the liberalization/modification of the diet (in which “illegal” foods like rice or oats had been reintroduced).

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