Efficacy of a low FODMAP diet in irritable bowel syndrome: systematic review and network meta-analysis

Gut. 2021 Aug 10;gutjnl-2021-325214. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-325214. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: A diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) is recommended for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), if general lifestyle and dietary advice fails. However, although the impact of a low FODMAP diet on individual IBS symptoms has been examined in some randomised controlled trials (RCTs), there has been no recent systematic assessment, and individual trials have studied numerous alternative or control interventions, meaning the best comparator is unclear. We performed a network meta-analysis addressing these uncertainties.

Design: We searched the medical literature through to 2 April 2021 to identify RCTs of a low FODMAP diet in IBS. Efficacy was judged using dichotomous assessment of improvement in global IBS symptoms or improvement in individual IBS symptoms, including abdominal pain, abdominal bloating or distension, and bowel habit. Data were pooled using a random effects model, with efficacy reported as pooled relative risks (RRs) with 95% CIs, and interventions ranked according to their P-score.

Results: We identified 13 eligible RCTs (944 patients). Based on failure to achieve an improvement in global IBS symptoms, a low FODMAP diet ranked first vs habitual diet (RR of symptoms not improving=0.67; 95% CI 0.48 to 0.91, P-score=0.99), and was superior to all other interventions. Low FODMAP diet ranked first for abdominal pain severity, abdominal bloating or distension severity and bowel habit, although for the latter it was not superior to any other intervention. A low FODMAP diet was superior to British Dietetic Association (BDA)/National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) dietary advice for abdominal bloating or distension (RR=0.72; 95% CI 0.55 to 0.94). BDA/NICE dietary advice was not superior to any other intervention in any analysis.

Conclusion: In a network analysis, low FODMAP diet ranked first for all endpoints studied. However, most trials were based in secondary or tertiary care and did not study effects of FODMAP reintroduction and personalisation on symptoms.

Keywords: diet; irritable bowel syndrome; meta-analysis.