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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the link between obesity and gallstones?

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  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Obese individuals are more likely to develop gallstones than those who are at a healthier weight. For women, obesity is an even stronger risk factor for developing gallstones. Researchers have found that obese individuals tend to produce higher levels of cholesterol than normal. This leads to production of bile that contains more cholesterol than can be dissolved. When this happens, gallstones can form from the undissolved cholesterol.
    Additionally, in the obese, gallbladders may not empty normally or completely.
    Research has shown that those who have excess fat around their stomach (abdominal obesity) may be at a greater risk for developing gallstones than those who carry excess fat mainly around their hip and thigh areas.
    As BMI increases, the risk for developing gallstones also rises. Women with a BMI greater than 32 may be as much as three times as likely to develop gallstones as those with a BMI of 24 or 25. The risk may be seven times higher in women with a BMI above 45 than in those with a BMI under 24.
    It's important to note that rapid weight loss (more than 2 kg per week) due to crash dieting or losing a large amount of weight too soon can actually increase your chances of developing gallstones, too. Slower weight loss of about ½ - 1 kg a week is much less likely to cause gallstones.
    Although losing weight may increase the risk of developing gallstones, obesity poses an even greater risk. Weight loss can lower the risk of developing gallstones and many other obesity-related illnesses. Just a 10% reduction of body weight can lower disease risk. Losing 10% of your current weight over the next six months is a realistic goal that can significantly improve your life and your overall health.

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