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Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease

Study finds diet rich in oleic acid may prevent development of ulcerative colitis

SATURDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- Increasing your intake of olive oil may help protect against ulcerative colitis, a new study finds.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon, resulting in abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss. This study found that people whose diet was rich in oleic acid were far less likely to develop ulcerative colitis.

Oleic acid is a monosaturated fatty acid found in foods such as olive oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, butter and some margarines.

This study included more than 25,000 people, aged 40-65, in Norfolk, U.K. who were recruited between 1993 and 1997. None of the participants had ulcerative colitis at the start of the study. By 2002, 22 participants had developed ulcerative colitis. The researchers compared the diets of these people to those who didn't develop the disease and found that those with the highest intake of oleic acid were 90 percent less likely to develop ulcerative colitis.

"Oleic acid seems to help prevent the development of ulcerative colitis by blocking chemicals in the bowel that aggravate the inflammation found in the illness," study leader Dr. Andrew Hart, of the University of East Anglia's School of Medicine, said in a news release.

"We estimate that around half the cases of ulcerative colitis could be prevented if larger amounts of oleic acid were consumed. Two-to-three tablespoons of olive oil per day would have a protective effect," he said.

The study was presented Saturday at the Digestive Disease Week conference in New Orleans.

More information

The American Society of Colon and Rectum Surgeons has more about ulcerative colitis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of East Anglia, news release, May 1, 2010

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