A recent Italian study supports the idea that in comparison to the average population, being overweight and obese are risk factors for acid reflux in women, even more so than in men.
Increased body weight has often been considered one of the most important risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This latest study, by Dr. Piretta and colleagues, seems to further support an association between body mass and acid reflux in females.
The finding is somewhat unique in two ways.
First, the study supports the idea that just being overweight, instead of excess fatty food intake, increases the risk of GERD.
The study also shows a separation between the rates of GERD in men and women. The role of gender and GERD has not been clearly defined, but researchers of this study hypothesize that higher hormone levels in women may cause more relaxations of the lower esophageal sphincter. The lower esophageal sphincter is the muscle responsible for keeping stomach contents in the stomach and out of the esophagus.
Since the mid-seventies, the prevalence of obesity has increased sharply for both adults and children in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity has increased from 15 percent in the late 1970s to 33 percent in 2004. Dr. Piretta's study is just one more reason these increasing rates of obesity should raise concern and be taken seriously.