Bulging midriff doubles odds of gallstones

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: August 21st, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’ve probably heard the health warnings about a bulging belly and obesity increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and other diseases. New studies show that packing extra pounds around the midriff also doubles a woman’s chances of developing gallstones… and the need for surgery to remove them.

And THAT’S whether you are overweight or not!

When you figure in total body fat distribution, your belly may hang over your beltline a bit and you still may not be considered clinically overweight. But if most of the fat gathers around your waistline, watch out for gallstones.

Most gallstones are nuggets of cholesterol formed from bile, a liquid that aids digestion and is stored in the gallbladder. Gallstones often cause no symptoms, but blockage of bile flow can lead to attacks known as biliary colic that cause upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.

Gallstone disease is the most common abdominal illness requiring hospital admission.

In a fourteen-year study of forty-two-thousand American women, those with waists measuring thirty-six inches or more were almost twice as likely to require surgery to remove the gallbladder for gallstones as those whose waists measured twenty-six inches or less. That’s according to new research in the journal Gut. This held true even if a woman wasn’t generally overweight, as determined by body mass index.

Researchers say the link between gallstones and midriff bulge may be due to increased metabolic activity in abdominal fat. Try a little physical activity to battle the bulge, and gallstones to boot.