Study reports benefits, safety, of FODMAP diet for children

The low fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP) diet, a diet low in carbohydrates that trigger digestive symptoms like bloating and stomach pain, is a useful treatment in children and adolescents with gastrointestinal problems, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand published in the journal Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

The research involved a clinical review of 29 children from Christchurch Public Hospital aged between 4 and 17 who were following the low FODMAP diet under the guidance of specialists. Complete resolution of gastrointestinal symptoms was observed in 92 percent of the children with bloating, 87 percent of those with diarrhea, and 77 percent of those with abdominal pain.

Andrew Day, PhD, lead author of the review from the University of Otago, explains that while the low FODMAP diet is well-established as a safe and effective dietary strategy to alleviate bowel symptoms in adults, there is currently little data examining the benefits and safety of dietary interventions that restrict carbohydrates in children with bowel disorders.

"To our knowledge the present study is the only one to report efficacy and safety data for the low FODMAP diet in children with functional bowel disorders in a real-world setting," said Day in a statement.

Given the increase in the number of children worldwide suffering from some form of functional bowel disorders, Day says studies are required to determine the efficacy and safety of the diet in children.

The results are similar to those previously reported in adults. The diet appears to be more beneficial for participants with symptoms of flatulence, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and distention.

In the study, most participants reported a "substantial improvement" of their symptoms with those with abdominal bloating having the highest rate of improvement, followed by those with abdominal pain. Fructans were the most common intolerance (67 pe cent), followed by lactose (56 percent), polyols (7 percent), fructose (7 percent) and galactose oligosaccharides (7 percent). Six children (24 percent) specifically identified that apples (fructose and sorbitol) triggered symptoms.

Day said further studies are needed in children to better understand factors such as the impacts on growth and the gut microbiome and the consequences of long-term dietary restriction.