IBD and Junk Food – “I can’t get no, satisfaction”

diet loses their minds

Several days after the BBC report came out that lifestyle choices (i.e. poor dietary habits, high antibiotic use) could increase the risk of IBD, the backlash is still being felt all over the internet by angry IBD’ers.  

In my opinion piece, Diet and IBD: What the research says, I made it quite clear that there IS evidence to support a link between dietary choices and IBD risk factors.  

It’s incredibly unfortunate that most of the people who’ve been upset seem to believe that they’re being told that dietary factors CAUSE Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, despite the fact that Dr. Mitton made no mention of this whatsoever in the BBC report.

Dr. Sally Mitton has now been able to respond to the criticism:

20th June 2014

First and foremost I would like to apologise for the distress that I have caused by what was shown on the BBC to all Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patients. I was unable to respond more quickly to the reactions to this report due to very heavy clinical commitments. I feel that what I said and the subsequent coverage has been misinterpreted and I would like to clarify this now.

I said that Crohn’s disease occurs in those who are genetically susceptible and that the unexplained recent increase in numbers diagnosed amongst young people in the UK is likely to be related to life style. I did mention pre diagnosis diet and multiple courses of antibiotics as possible factors preceding the development of overt disease in some cases. I did not say that junk food or frequent courses of antibiotics CAUSE Crohn’s disease. I am very aware there are many patients with IBD who eat a very healthy and nutritious diet and have always done so before their diagnosis.

However, since the initial report on 18th of June there have been subsequent newspaper and television reports that focus on the assumption that Crohn’sDisease seems to be “caused” by junk food and multiple antibiotics. This is not my belief and is a distortion.

I did not mean to imply any element of self-infliction and I am appalled to think this could set back public perception of IBD or that sufferers might be blamed for their own pain and misfortune.

I would like to sincerely apologise again for the distress that my comments have caused.

Dr Sally Mitton
Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist

Even so, it appears that many people aren’t happy and still say things like:

“Too little, too late! She should have never mentioned junk food in the first place it was hardly relevant! ” – Jenny K. through the CCUK Facebook page

“After all the positive media in raising awareness of these dreadfull [sic] diseases and the effect it has on sufferers lives, I think she has destroyed empathy for many people as they now think they have bought it on themselves. She should be made to publily withdraw the statement and apologise to all sufferers, leading IBD specialists do not know the cause so how can she!” – Dawn D. through the CCUK Facebook page

“Too busy to apologise?! Too little too late in my mind, the damage has already been done.” – Tracy K. through the CCUK Facebook page

“I suppose that is some sort of apology but she still maintains that “the unexplained recent increase in numbers diagnosed amongst young people in the UK is likely to be related to life style.” NO, IT ISN’T! I cannot believe a gastroenterologist could be so ignorant and misinformed! ” – Martine M. through the CCUK Facebook page

 I’ve had crohns for 35 years and have never touched junk food, always fresh and prepared daily, even make my own bread, pasta, soup and only home grown veg and fruit, so surely the whole thing is nonense and just put more pressure on those of us that suffer” – Karen F. through the CCUK Facebook page

There are hundreds of comments like that through various social media sites.  WHY?

Perhaps the majority of us simply don’t look through the research, since it’s been well established and ongoing (Diet and IBD: What the research says), so we take certain headlines as fact and run with it, often (erroneously) upset about the implications.  

As a long-term vegan, I’ve had to witness the madness that ensues every time a media outlet falsely reports on a story related to veganism.   Baby dies of rickets from vegetarian motherFrench vegans face trial after death of baby fed only on breast milkDeath by Veganism, etc., etc., etc.  

When we look into the stories, we see that “veganism” wasn’t the cause of these deaths; bad parenting was.  

However, in the BBC report, nothing was false or misleading about the statement that junk food and antibiotic use may increase the risk of IBD.


I can see how many could be upset by the other media outlets who’ve made up their own headlines (See Daily Mail UK’s: Junk food blamed for soaring rate of Crohn’s disease among young) about this story, but I think the attacks on Dr. Mitton and the BBC are harsh.  

Take a deep breath, nobody is blaming you for your illness and nobody has said that eating cookies caused your illness.  

So the next time someone accuses you of having IBD because you used to eat chips and soda as a kid, or took several rounds of antibiotics to fight a stubborn infection, you can tell them that “while junk food and antibiotic use are risk factors, we still don’t know what triggers IBD for certain”.  

I think that gentle education, even with the wild headlines being thrown about, is more effective than anger and close-mindedness. By all means, however, feel free to ask for headlines to be changed if they are outright false (this goes to YOU, Daily Mail UK), but look before you leap!

Did the letter from Dr. Mitton or the research on the dietary factors of IBD change your mind about the recent BBC report?

3 thoughts on “IBD and Junk Food – “I can’t get no, satisfaction””

  1. NO, in my humble opinion the letter from Dr.Mitton did not change my mind about the recent BBC reports as I feel the whole debacle could have been handled a lot better – though you already know this as I have told you so myself :P Hehe
    I personally do not fully lay the blame at poor ol Dr.Mitton door but I feel it was not handled/approached in the best light.


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