Just a few extra pounds increases women's risk of reflux

According to new research women who gain even a few extra pounds are increasing their risk of getting acid reflux.

Doctors have suspected for some time that excessive weight can bring on heartburn and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which happens when the contents of the stomach are regurgitated.

As many 20 to 30 percent of adults are affected by reflux at least once a week; GERD occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus does not close properly and as a result, the contents in the stomach, including stomach acid, can spill up into the esophagus, leading to erosion of the esophagus and, in some cases, esophageal cancer.

As a rule the ailment is treated with drugs that suppress the production of stomach acid.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine studied 10,545 female nurses randomly selected from the Nurses' Health Study and asked them to complete a questionnaire on GERD.

The women were categorized according to BMI which was then cross-referenced with symptom information and the researchers found there was a link between even modest weight gain and reflux disease.

Lead researcher Brian Jacobson, an assistant professor of medicine at the university, says the study revealed that a 5-foot 2-inch woman weighing 123 to 136 pounds had a 38 percent greater chance of reflux than a woman weighing 110 to 122 lb; those weights are all considered to be within the normal range.

The researchers say from 137 to 192 lb, the risk more than doubled and at 192 lb, the risk nearly tripled for a person of that height.

Surprisingly factors such as diet, smoking or diabetes did not appear to influence the risk.

Dr Jacobson says the risks probably equally apply to men, but as yet he does not have data to support the supposition.

The good news is though that the condition appears to be reversible and the risk reduction equates with the weight lost.

The study is published in the current edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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