Effects of dairy products on crohn's disease symptoms are influenced by fat content and disease location but not lactose content or disease activity status in a New Zealand population

J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Aug;111(8):1165-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2011.05.004.


Background: Dairy products have been perceived as having the potential to cause adverse effects in individuals with Crohn's disease (CD) and are often avoided, potentially increasing the risk of osteoporosis and related morbidity associated with inadequate dietary calcium intake.

Objective: To evaluate the self-reported effects of dairy products on CD symptoms and to determine whether these effects differed between types of dairy products consumed and disease state or location.

Design: Secondary analysis of dietary survey and clinical data from participants in the Genes and Diet in Inflammatory Bowel Disease study based in Auckland, New Zealand.

Subjects/setting: One hundred and sixty-five men and women diagnosed with CD for which both dietary survey data and clinical information were available.

Statistical analyses performed: χ(2) analysis was conducted to assess whether significant differences in the proportions of responses relating to a worsening of CD symptoms from individual dairy products were evident between individuals with active or quiescent CD, or ileal or colonic disease locations. Odds ratios with confidence interval were calculated to determine whether CD location was associated with risk of any type of adverse reaction to milk products. Logit scales were utilized to depict self-reported CD symptoms associated with individual dairy product consumption for ileal and colonic CD patients.

Results: Dairy products had no effect on self-reported CD symptoms for most people. Dairy products with a high fat content were most frequently reported to worsen perceived CD symptoms. Clinically, self-reported CD activity status did not influence responses to dairy products; however, colonic inflammation was more frequently associated with adverse CD effects in comparison to ileal CD involvement.

Conclusions: Research outcomes question the necessity of dairy product avoidance in CD patients and illustrate the highly individual nature of dairy product tolerance in this clinical population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Colon / pathology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Crohn Disease / etiology
  • Crohn Disease / pathology*
  • Crohn Disease / prevention & control
  • Dairy Products* / adverse effects
  • Dairy Products* / analysis
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / analysis
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Ileum / pathology
  • Lactose / administration & dosage
  • Lactose / adverse effects
  • Lactose / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Self Disclosure
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Dietary Fats
  • Lactose