Red Meat for Dietary Cynics

A recent randomized study (L Albenberg et al. Gastroenterol 2019; 157: 128-36) examined whether a diet low in red or processed meats could reduce rates of Crohn’s disease (CD) flares.

Methods: Adults with CD were recruited into the FACES (Food and Crohn’s Disease Exacerbation Study) trial from 2013 to 2015. Participants were recruited from an internet-based cohort (n=15,600).  Eligible participants (consumed red meat at least once a week & in remission) were randomly assigned to high meat, n=118 (minimum of 2 servings per week) or low meat, n=96 (no more than 1 serving per month).  Outcomes were based on changes in sCDAI scores or need for treatment (new medication or surgery)

Key findings:

  • Any relapse occurred in 62% of participants in the high meat group compared to 42% in the low meat group.  This was not statistically significant.
  • At week 20, 18 participants in each arm had a stool calprotectin with the high meat group having a higher median: 74.5 mcg/g compared to 36.0 mcg/g (P=.13)
  • The high meat group did consume at least 2 servings per week in 98.5% of observed weeks compared to 18.8% of the low meat group.


  • Small number of diet participants
  • Study was not blinded and only a subset included more objective markers of response
  • Whether complete avoidance of red meat/processed meats would be more effective is unclear
  • In those in remission at baseline, it could take longer for the benefits of a dietary intervention to become evident

My take:  Limiting consumption of red and processed meats (particularly if meat is not lean) has been shown to have cardiovascular benefits.  While this study does not show a statistically-significant improvement in relapse rates in this cohort with Crohn’s disease, there are still strong arguments that a diet with increased fruits/vegetables and less red/processed meats would be beneficial.

Related Blog Posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

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