UNC research highlights at 2011 Digestive Disease Week

Digestive Disease Week (DDW) is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

Media contacts: Les Lang, (919) 966-9366, llang@med.unc.edu, Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

Monday, May 9, 2011

Digestive Disease Week (DDW) is the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery. Jointly sponsored by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, DDW takes place May 7-10, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. The meeting showcases approximately 5,000 abstracts and hundreds of lectures on the latest advances in GI research, medicine and technology.

The following are a selection of oral presentations given at this year’s DDW by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine researchers.

1. Meditation offers relief for people with irritable bowel syndrome
This first-ever randomized controlled trial of the effect of mindfulness meditation training on irritable bowel syndrome found that the behavioral technique could significantly reduce the severity of symptoms. Dr. Olafur Palsson, associate professor of medicine, division of gastroenterology and hepatology, and UNC co-investigators also found that over time mindfulness training also reduced psychological distress associated with IBS. The study was led by Susan Gaylord, PhD, director of the University of North Carolina Program on Integrative Medicine.

2. Tough economic times affect colonoscopy screening rates even among the insured
This study sought to determine if the recent economic recession had an impact on the use of screening colonoscopy among people with health insurance. Dr. Spencer D. Dorn, assistant professor of medicine and co-investigators in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at UNC found that it did. Colonoscopy rates decreased among insured Americans during the recession, with high out-of-pocket costs a major factor. The findings support policies aimed at reducing costs for the procedure.

3. Diets high in fiber won’t protect against diverticulosis

People whose diets are low in fiber are thought to be at greater risk for developing the diverticular disease of the large intestine than those who eat high-fiber diets. The disease, in which pouches develop in the colon wall, affects about one-third of adults over age 60 and often occurs without symptoms. But complications can be severe and resultant U.S. health expenditures very high, an estimated $2.5 billion per year. A study of more than 2,000 people reported by Anne Peery, MD, fellow in the gastroenterology and hepatology division at UNC, could change dietary recommendations regarding the problem. Rather than a decrease, Peery and co-investigators found an increased risk of diverticulosis in people whose diets are high in fiber and who have more frequent bowel movements.

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