Obesity and Gastroesophageal Reflux

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In recent years, the rates of obesity in most Western nations have been on the rise. At the same time, the cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition for which obesity has long been believed to be a contributing factor, have also increased significantly. A recent review of past studies has taken a closer look at the apparent link between obesity and gastroesophageal reflux.

Researchers looked at information taken from 1,659 patients who complained of GERD symptoms between 1998 and 2008. The subjects, made up of both men and women, were determined to be either underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on their body mass index (BMI). All of the subjects underwent 24-hour pH monitoring and esophageal manometry to test for acid exposure. These two tests are commonly used to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease and determine the severity of the disease.

The results of the pH monitoring and esophageal manometry tests were compared to each patient’s BMI. The study found that as BMI increased, so did the amount of esophageal acid exposure. In addition, the study found that people with a higher BMI were more likely to have a dysfunctional LES (lower esophageal sphincter), which is one known cause of GERD. In fact, obese patients were more than twice as likely to have a mechanically defective LES than normal-weight patients.

The study confirms that obesity may lead to an increased risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease.

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