Dale Lee, MD
Dr. Dale Lee is a pediatric gastroenterologist who specialized in clinical nutrition and research. Following residency and chief residency in pediatrics, Dr. Lee was trained in pediatric gastroenterology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. He is one of the few pediatric gastroenterologists in the nation with specialized training in nutrition and also has a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology. Specific interest in studying nutritional therapy for inflammatory bowel disease led Dr. Lee to pursue the additional training in clinical nutrition and during this time he began to develop a unique collaboration with food science researchers.
In Seattle, Dr. Lee works with a broad team, including nutrition epidemiologists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. A strong believer that food can be powerful therapy, Dr. Lee has been involved with a variety of studies evaluating the role of diet and disease. The burden of chronic inflammatory diseases is rising, and diet may have a profound effect. He has presented his research nationally and internationally and his goal is to better understand the role of diet in disease, and to harness dietary therapies for the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, as well as a variety of other diseases. Dr. Lee believes that working on a research team with diverse areas of expertise is the most effective way to push forward and study the role of diet in disease. Dr. Lee is interested in studying modalities of capturing dietary exposures and is specifically concentrating on food additives. Though a variety of food additives have been suggested to be associated with intestinal inflammation in pre-clinical models, the frequency of exposure to food additives and the potential impact of these exposures on health is challenging to study.
For inflammatory bowel disease, immunosuppression without consideration of diet is the prevailing paradigm of current therapy. Diet may have an important role as primary therapy or adjunctive therapy to immunosuppression. Patients have strong perceptions on the role of diet on their IBD, and Dr. Lee’s research has have examined patient perceptions as well as efficacy of dietary therapies. One study demonstrated that patients with active disease symptoms tend to gravitate towards certain foods, such as yogurt, bananas, and rice. Another study demonstrate the great interest that patient’s have in the specific carbohydrate diet, but the general lack of engagement by the medical team in the practice of this dietary therapy.
Patients with IBD seek information from the internet to guide their dietary patterns, and one of Dr. Lee’s studies demonstrated great variability and even contradictory information on the most popular internet sites giving advice on diet and IBD. This demonstrates the need for high quality research to help guide recommendations. Dr. Lee has studied exclusive enteral nutrition (a formula-based dietary therapy for Crohn’s disease) and compared this to partial enteral nutrition and anti-TNF-alpha therapy. This study demonstrated that greater dietary restriction resulted in greater therapeutic efficacy of enteral nutritional therapy. The data from this study also suggest that individuals on anti-TNF-alpha therapy can have a more liberal diet and still have good control of disease.