Study Shows Link between Microplastics and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A recent study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal has shown a link between high levels of stool microplastics and inflammatory bowel disease. Nevertheless, the findings do not suggest that microplastics lead to the condition.

In general, inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term that refers to a group of diseases occurring when the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common forms.

Typical symptoms of these conditions include fatigue, abdominal pain, weight loss, rectal bleeding, and diarrhea.

It is still unclear what causes inflammatory bowel disease. However, scientists believe that it occurs when people have certain genetic factors that make them become a few triggers.

In this new study, the authors examined the effects of microplastics on the condition by looking at the fecal samples of 102 participants. Among them, 50 individuals are healthy and 52 individuals have inflammatory bowel disease.

All participants had to complete a questionnaire about the beverages and foods that they consume, their socio-demographic features, the status of inflammatory bowel disease, as well as their living and working conditions in the previous year.

The objective of the analysis is to determine the forms and quantity of microplastics in the fecal samples.

The results suggested that people with inflammatory bowel disease had noticeably more plastic in their fecal samples than those who are healthy.

In addition, they found that the severity of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis is linked to the amounts of microplastics.

It is worth noting that individuals with more plastics in fecal samples were more likely to consume more takeaway food, use more bottled water, and be exposed to dust in working or living conditions.

This is the first study to show a considerable difference in the amounts of microplastics in fecal samples between healthy and inflammatory bowel disease patients.

Nevertheless, the scientists did not come to the conclusion that microplastics lead to inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease is a very complicated condition with unclear etiology. Therefore, the authors think it would be safer to conclude that microplastics are more likely to stay in the bodies of individuals with this disease.

The study also had several drawbacks. Firstly, it is a small-scale project with only 102 participants.  Also, the amounts of microplastics in fecal samples in this research do not have direct links to the amounts of microplastics in the human body or gastrointestinal tract.

Source:

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.1c03924

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