CASES of Crohn’s disease among young people leading to hospital admission have soared in England and Wales in recent years.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre said that last year 19,405 16 to 29-year-olds were admitted for treatment in England – up from 4,937 in 2003/4.
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are thought to affect around 260,000 people nationwide and can have a major impact on everyday life.
Experts believe junk food and too many antibiotics could be reasons for the increased cases but charities have warned that links have not been definitively proved and many people with healthy diets still suffer from the condition.
Crohn's and Colitis UK said in a statement: "There has been no definitive scientific link made to any particular diet or food additive as being a sole cause of the disease.
"There are many possible reasons why a patient may develop Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, including genetics and a range of environmental factors. Each patient's case is individual.
"The reason for the increased numbers of hospital admissions over the last ten years may reflect the increasing numbers of patients, often young people, being diagnosed with IBD. An estimated 10,000 young people are diagnosed with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis every year.
"The increased admissions figure may also reflect the fact that hospitals are improving their data information capture systems. However, we need more studies and information to offer a more definitive answer."