Girth and GERD

Obesity contributes to many health problems, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. However, one condition -- gastroesophageal reflux disease -- stands out in its ties to obesity, say the authors of a new study. In the largest and most scientifically rigorous study to date, researchers at the University of Southern California were able to calculate that the effect of obesity on GERD is 13%.

"Everyone knows that blood pressure and cholesterol levels are related to obesity, but the strength of the relationship with GERD is every bit as strong or perhaps even stronger," the authors of the study, Dr. Shahin Ayazi and Dr. Peter Crookes, told The Times. The study is published in this month's issue of the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery.

As obesity rates have risen in the United States, so has GERD. One study suggested that GERD incidence increased 5% annually between 1992 and 2005. Almost 1 in 5 people have the disease. The volume and fat content of diet is linked to esophageal acid exposure, as are high-calorie diets. The same dietary habits promote both obesity and GERD, the authors say.

But losing weight won't necessarily ease GERD unless someone is in the early stages of the condition and has only mild reflux.

There are treatments for GERD. But the strongest message is one for obesity prevention.


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