A leading US gastroenterologist and proponent of the low FODMAP diet for patients with IBS will arrive in Melbourne next week to meet with Australian developers of the diet as he prepares to establish his own FODMAP laboratory in Michigan.
The laboratory, which will be used to measure the FODMAP value in American foods, will be the first of its kind in the US, and is being led by Professor Bill Chey, Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan.
He is modelling the laboratory on the one established in Melbourne to develop the diet.
The impending visit is a major coup for Professor Peter Gibson and his team of researchers at Monash University, who developed the at-times controversial low FODMAP diet and follows the release of a large US study led by Professor Chey which showed significant improvements in quality of life when IBS patients followed a low FODMAP diet.
The research was presented at Digestive Disease Week and an abstract also published in the journal Gastroenterology.
The University of Michigan researchers assessed the impact of a low FODMAP diet versus a control diet on health-related quality of life (HRQOL), psychological distress, work productivity, and sleep quality measures in patients with IBS and diarrhoea (IBS-D).
“In this US randomized, controlled study of IBS-D patients, a low FODMAP diet improved HRQOL, activity impairment, and sleep quality when compared to a control diet,” the authors concluded.
“This is one of the first methodologically rigorous clinical trials to show that diet-based therapy can not only improve symptoms but also HRQOL in patients with IBS-D.”
Professor Gibson, who is also head of Gastroenterology at Alfred Health in Melbourne, said the research was an important step forward in establishing the low FODMAP diet as an effective tool in the treatment of patients with IBS.
“It’s really important because there’s no doubt that American studies carry a lot of weight in America,” he told the limbic. “It’s replicated what’s been done elsewhere and that’s very important for legitimising it because there are still detractors.”
He said Professor Chey was a very early promoter of the low FODMAP diet in the US and led the way for a growing number of physicians and patients seeing benefits from the diet.
Professor Chey is highly regarded in his field, and was last year honoured with the Distinguished Clinician Award.
However, US physicians have some limitations in adapting the disease for their community, given the fact that food composition is different to some foods in Australia. Professor Gibson said Professor Chey was responding to this challenge by setting up a laboratory at the University of Michigan, where researchers will calculate the FODMAP values of US foods.
“One of the reasons he is coming to Melbourne is to look at the techniques we use to measure FODMAP values of foods and to get the protocols needed to establish his own laboratory,” Professor Gibson said.
“It’s fantastic for Australian gastroenterologists that he’s coming as he will also be doing a lot of teaching.”
He will also be speaking at a one-day IBS meeting, which is expected to attract physicians from around Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Gibson conceded there were still sceptics who believed the diet only had a placebo effect.
“They feel that we have been singing its praises to early,” he said. “But it’s good to have sceptics, as long as they don’t remain sceptical despite the evidence.”
He said he believed the tide was definitely turning thanks to more research, like that which has recently come out of the US, and this was making it harder for the detractors.
Acceptance in the US would be a big step forward in achieving even wider approval, he said.