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The results are in from more Lily-funded research


8 February 2023

The Lily Foundation were proud to co-fund the first study to investigate the role of a Low Residue Diet (LRD) in helping to improve gut symptoms in patients with mitochondrial disease.

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Results from the research undertaken by Dr David Houghton and led by Professor Gráinne Gorman at Newcastle University were published earlier this year in the journal Gastro Hep Advances. You can access the full article here.


Up to 65% of patients with mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) disease experience gut symptoms that can have a significant impact on their health and quality of life. Symptoms range from abdominal pain and bloating to severe constipation or diarrhoea, and may occasionally mimic an obstruction in the gut, requiring admission to hospital. The exact cause of the gut symptoms is unknown, however dysfunctional mitochondria in the nerves and smooth muscle are believed to play a role in this.

What is a Low Residue Diet (LRD)?

A LRD is a form of low fibre diet that limits the fibrous (the part of food that is not fully digested) part of certain foods in the gut. A reduction in food residue in the gut may reduce the workload of the gut and thus result in a reduction in the associated symptoms.

Study design

This study monitored 28 adult patients with mitochondrial disease and constipation who were following a Low Residue Diet for 12 weeks. 24 patients completed the study.

Summary of key findings

The data from this study indicated that a Low Residue Diet is safe and may be beneficial for improving gut symptoms and bowel habits in some patients with mitochondrial DNA disease. It may also provide important clinical information that may help diagnose and guide treatments in mitochondrial disease patients with gut symptoms, but its effectiveness as a short or long-term dietary intervention still requires further research.

The study also identified differences in the levels of bacteria in the gut of mitochondrial disease patients which may also play a key role in gut symptoms. Further research is still needed to understand more about how differences in gut bacteria may impact symptoms and how they may also be used to diagnose and guide treatment for patients more effectively, and this is the focus of ongoing work.

Research lead Professor Gorman commented: “As clinicians caring for and supporting those affected by mitochondrial disorders, we know that gut problems are a common symptom and can have a considerable impact on both health and quality of life. This study is the first of its kind in mitochondrial disease patients with gastrointestinal symptoms and truly reflects the patient-focused approach to all our research within the Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research at Newcastle University that aims to improve the lives of those with mitochondrial disease. We are encouraged by the positive study findings that suggest a Low Residue Diet may offer a promising treatment for alleviating gut symptoms in some individuals with mitochondrial disease and are looking to confirm this through further research. We would like to thank all the patients who took part in the study and also The Lily Foundation for funding the project.”

*The use of a LRD must always be supervised by appropriate clinical teams.

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