Obesity in IBD: epidemiology, pathogenesis, disease course and treatment outcomes

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Incidence of IBD is rising in parallel with overweight and obesity. Contrary to conventional belief, about 15-40% of patients with IBD are obese, which might contribute to the development of IBD. Findings from cross-sectional and retrospective cohort studies are conflicting on the effect of obesity on natural history and course of IBD. Most studies are limited by small sample size, low event rates, non-validated assessment of disease activity and lack robust longitudinal follow-up and have incomplete adjustment for confounding factors. The effect of obesity on the efficacy of IBD-related therapy remains to be studied, though data from other autoimmune diseases suggests that obesity results in suboptimal response to therapy, potentially by promoting rapid clearance of biologic agents leading to low trough concentrations. These data provide a rationale for using weight loss interventions as adjunctive therapy in patients with IBD who are obese. Obesity also makes colorectal surgery technically challenging and might increase the risk of perioperative complications. In this Review, we highlight the existing literature on the epidemiology of obesity in IBD, discuss its plausible role in disease pathogenesis and effect on disease course and treatment response, and identify high-priority areas of future research.

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