Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is becoming more prevalent throughout the world. IBD, which is characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, can be induced or exacerbated by dietary and environmental variables.
Microplastics — small bits of plastic less than 5 mm in length — are found in almost everything, from bottled water to food to the air. According to recent estimates, people swallow tens of thousands of tiny particles each year, with unknown health repercussions.
Researchers from the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal discovered that individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have more microplastics in their stools than healthy controls, implying that the fragments may be related to the disease process.
Microplastics have been shown in animal models to cause intestinal inflammation, disruption of the gut microbiome, and other problems, prompting Faming Zhang, Yan Zhang, and colleagues to investigate if they could possibly contribute to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The researchers intended to compare the quantities of microplastics in feces from healthy volunteers and patients with varying degrees of IBD as a first step toward finding out.
The researchers collected feces from 50 healthy persons and 52 people with IBD from various parts of China. The samples were analyzed, and it was discovered that feces from IBD patients included around 1.5 times more microplastic particles per gram than those from healthy people.
The microplastics in both groups exhibited comparable shapes (mainly sheets and fibers), but the IBD feces included more tiny (less than 50 m) particles. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET; used in bottles and food containers) and polyamide (PA; found in food packaging and textiles) were the two most common forms of plastic in both categories.
Individuals with more severe IBD symptoms had higher levels of fecal microplastics. The researchers discovered that participants in both groups who drank bottled water, ate takeout food, and were frequently exposed to dust had more microplastics in their stools.
These findings show that individuals with IBD may be more likely to be exposed to microplastics in their gastrointestinal tract. However, the researchers say it’s still unclear if this exposure causes or contributes to IBD, or whether patients with IBD acquire more fecal microplastics as a result of their disease.
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