July 25 (UPI) -- A new study has found that living in rural households decreases a person's risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.
IBD includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation of the digestive tract and leads to chronic diarrhea, abdominal pains, weight loss and blood in the stool.
Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, or CHEO, Research Institute, the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences, or ICES, and the Canadian Gastro-Intestinal Epidemiology Consortium, or CanGIEC, conducted the study, which is published July 25 in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.
"Our findings show that children, particularly those under the age of 10, experience a protective effect against IBD if they live in a rural household," Dr. Eric Benchimol, scientist at ICES and a pediatric gastroenterologist at the CHEO Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, in Ottawa, said in a press release.
"This effect is particularly strong in children who are raised in a rural household in the first five years of life. These are important findings since our previous work shows that the number of very young children being diagnosed with IBD has jumped in the past 20 years. The findings also strengthen our understanding that environmental risk factors that predispose people to IBD may have a stronger effect in children than adults."
Researchers identified 45,567 patients diagnosed with IBD with 6,662 patients diagnosed with IBD living in rural settings and 38,905 living in urban households from 1999 to 2010 in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario, Canada.
The study revealed the overall incidence of IBD was 30.72 per 100,000 people in the rural population compared to 33.16 per 100,000 in the urban population.
"We've known that in addition to genetic risk factors, environmental factors have been associated with the risk of developing IBD. But this new study demonstrates the importance of early life exposure in altering the risk of IBD, and that needs further study," Benchimol said.