Crohn’s disease hospital admissions surge 300% ‘because of junk food and antibiotics’

The illness has seen a huge rise in the past decade

The number of young people admitted to hospital with serious bowel problems has soared in the past decade, and experts have warned that junk food and antibiotics may be to blame.

New figures show the number of 16 to 29-year-olds receiving treatment in England for Crohn’s disease rose by almost 300 per cent between 2003/4 and 2012/13.

The condition and its affiliate ulcerative colitis are now thought to affect around 260,000 people nationwide, and can have a huge detrimental impact on everyday life.

Some experts have suggested that the increase in cases is linked to the greater amounts of junk food consumed in modern Britain, as well as a growing tendency to prescribe lots of antibiotics “particularly in younger life”.

But charities have warned that this link has not been proved “definitively”, and said many people with perfectly healthy diets still suffer from the condition.

The statistics, obtained by BBC Newsbeat from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, showed that last year there were 19,405 people admitted to hospital for Crohn’s. A decade earlier the figure was just 4,937.

Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are chronic bowel conditions, caused by inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, that can lead to diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss.

Darren Fletcher, who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008 Darren Fletcher, who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2008 Three-quarters of people with Crohn's, which affects one in every 1,000 people in the UK, will need bowel reconstructive surgery at some point in their lives.

Describing his battle with colitis in February this year, the Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher said he could be “running to the toilet 10, 20, 30 times a day and losing a lot of blood”.

The Only Way is Essex’s Sam Faiers on ITV’s Celebrity Surgery that same month to discuss her own diagnosis with Crohn’s, which she said made her lose a stone and a half of weight in just six weeks of illness.

Dr Sally Mitton, a consultant gastroenterologist at St George's Hospital in south-west London, told Newsbeat: “If you have a lot of junk food before your diagnosis it actually makes it more likely that you will develop Crohn's disease.

“Also people have noticed those who have lots of antibiotics - particularly in younger life - also seem to be more likely to develop this condition.

Sam Faiers appeared on ITV's Celebrity Surgery to speak about her diagnosis with Crohn's in February this year Sam Faiers appeared on ITV's Celebrity Surgery to speak about her diagnosis with Crohn's in February this year “All the centres that get lots of referrals have noticed an increase over the last few decades.”

A statement issued by the charity Crohn's and Colitis UK said it welcomed debate about the rise in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), but warned that linking it to junk food was “controversial and potentially unhelpful”.

“There has been no definitive scientific link made to any particular diet or food additive as being a sole cause of the disease,” the charity said. “There are many possible reasons why a patient may develop Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, including genetics and a range of environmental factors. Each patient's case is individual.

“The reason for the increased numbers of hospital admissions over the last ten years may reflect the increasing numbers of patients, often young people, being diagnosed with IBD. An estimated 10,000 young people are diagnosed with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis every year.

“The increased admissions figure may also reflect the fact that hospitals are improving their data information capture systems. However, we need more studies and information to offer a more definitive answer.”

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