Denelle Cosier stands with her arms crossed, in a black dress, in front of a garden background. Photo: Michael Gray

Do blackcurrants hold the key to understanding ulcerative colitis?

Do blackcurrants hold the key to understanding ulcerative colitis?

New study will examine whether anti-inflammatory compounds can alleviate symptoms of debilitating disease

A new study from the University of Wollongong (UOW) is examining, for the first time, whether blackcurrants can help alleviate the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease in adults.

A chronic autoimmune condition, Inflammatory Bowel Disease affects more than 100,000 Australians and can have a crippling financial, physical, and social impact on one’s quality of life. Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which occurs when the digestive tract becomes damaged by prolonged inflammation, encompasses two serious illnesses – ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. There are no known causes and no known cures, and rates of inflammatory bowel diseases are on the rise around the world.

Denelle Cosier, an Accredited Practising Dietitian and PhD researcher in UOW’s School of Medicine, Indigenous and Health Sciences, is leading the study alongside Professor Karen Charlton, Associate Professor Kelly Lambert, and Professor Marijka Batterham. The researchers are aiming to untangle whether blackcurrants hold the key to improving the symptoms of sufferers. 

“This is the first research study to look at the effect of the anti-inflammatory compounds from blackcurrants in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Additionally, we are looking at whether combining the blackcurrants with a probiotic can enhance the anti-inflammatory effect that people experience,” said Ms Cosier.

“We expect that this novel intervention will reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and increase the disease-related quality-of-life of our study participants.”

Karen Charlton and Denelle Cosier stand at a table, each with a glass of blackcurrant juice. Photo: Michael Gray Professor Karen Charlton and Denelle Cosier.

The study will also examine the link between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. Stress, depression, and anxiety, have been shown to trigger inflammation and gastrointestinal issues in the gut, which, in turn, perpetuate the negative emotions, thus creating a destructive cycle. Rates of anxiety and depression are higher in people living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease than the general population. Interventions that have a positive effect on both the gut and the brain will be beneficial.

The researchers are calling for more participants to be involved in the clinical study. The outline of the experiment, called The INHABIT Inflammatory Bowel Disease Study, was recently published in the Journal of Nutritional Science. 

They are searching for adults with Ulcerative colitis to participate. More than five million people around the world suffer from ulcerative colitis, a chronic and progressive form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that causes inflammatory ulcers in the colon.

An image of a cluster of blackcurrants on a leafy tree. Photo: Shutterstock

“People living with ulcerative colitis experience chronic inflammation and many different disease symptoms, which can affect their daily living and quality of life,” Ms Cosier said. “There is not a lot of knowledge about how nutrition and diet affect this disease and the inflammation levels. 

“This study will provide valuable data on how inflammation and the gut microbiome are related. The findings from this study may contribute to the development of personalised gut microbiome and dietary therapies for people living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” 

For more information or to be involved in the study, contact Denelle Cosier on

About the research

‘The INHABIT (synergistic effect of aNtHocyAnin and proBIoTics in Inflammatory Bowel Disease trial: a study protocol for a double-blind, randomised, controlled, multi-arm trial’ is published in the Journal of Nutritional Science.

Co-authors are Denelle Cosier, School of Medicine, Indigenous and Health Sciences, UOW; Karen Charlton, School of Medicine, Indigenous and Health Sciences, UOW; Kelly Lambert, School of Medicine, Indigenous and Health Sciences, UOW; Marijka Batterham, Statistical Consulting Centre, National Institute for Applied Statistical Research, UOW, Martina Sanderson-Smith, School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience and Molecular Horizons, UOW; Kylie J Mansfield, Graduate School of Medicine, UOW.