Elemental diets are considered an effective primary treatment for active Crohn's disease. This study examined the hypothesis that improvement occurs because of the presence of amino acids or the low fat content, or both. A randomised, controlled trial was undertaken in 40 patients with active Crohn's disease to evaluate clinical and nutritional outcomes after an amino acid based diet containing 3% fat was given by a feeding tube compared with a peptide based diet containing 33% fat. After three weeks' treatment, clinical remission occurred in 84% of patients who were given the amino acid diet and 75% of patients who received the peptide diet (p = 0.38). Plasma linoleic acid concentration was reduced after the amino acid but not the peptide diet. An increase in total body nitrogen was associated with the magnitude of nutritional depletion before treatment and at six months' follow up, only patients who showed gains in total body nitrogen after enteral nutrition had a sustained clinical remission. This study shows that peptide based high fat diets are as effective as amino acid low fat diets for achieving clinical remission in active Crohn's disease. Improved total body protein stores but not essential fatty acid depletion may be an important indicator of a sustained remission.
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