In a population-based prospective cohort study published in the journal Gut, researchers  assessed the correlation between healthy lifestyle behaviors and the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The study involved 64,268 adults aged between 37 and 73 years with no IBS diagnosis at baseline who were enrolled in the UK Biobank survey between 2006 and 2010 and followed up to 2022. The average age of participants was 55.9 years, and 55.0% were female.

For this study, researchers evaluated five self-reported healthy lifestyle behaviors: never smoking, optimal sleep, a high level of vigorous physical activity, high dietary quality, and moderate alcohol intake.
The primary outcome measure was designated as the incidence of IBS.

During an average follow-up of 12.6 years, 961 (1.5%) incident IBS cases were documented. Among the participants, 7,604 (11.8%) reported none of the five healthy lifestyle behaviors, 20,662 (32.1%) reported one behavior, 21,901 (34.1%) reported two behaviors, and 14,101 (21.9%) reported three to five behaviors at baseline.

The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios associated with having one, two, three, or five behaviors for IBS incidence were 0.79 (95% CI, 0.65-0.96), 0.64 (0.53-0.78), and 0.58 (0.46-0.72), respectively, which corresponded to 21%, 36%, and 42% lower risk for IBS.

Moreover, a history of never smoking (0.86, 0.76-0.98, P = .02), high level of vigorous physical activity (0.83, 0.73-0.95, P = .006), and optimal sleep (0.73, 0.60-0.88, P = .001) demonstrated significant independent inverse associations with IBS incidence.

The researchers also noted that no meaningful interactions were detected between these correlations and age, gender, employment status, geographic location, gastrointestinal infection, endometriosis, family history of IBS, or lifestyle behaviors.

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded, “This study provides evidence that adherence to a higher number of healthy lifestyle behaviors—never smoking, optimal sleep, high level of physical activity, high dietary quality and moderate alcohol intake—is significantly associated with a lower risk of subsequent IBS incidence. These findings suggest that lifestyle modifications should be considered as key primary prevention strategies for IBS.”

The researchers added that additional research is warranted to verify their findings.

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