High BMI Increases GERD Risk

Being overweight is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other serious medical conditions. Recently though, medical researchers have added another potential consequence to the list: gastroesophageal reflux disorder, commonly known as GERD.

GERD is a condition in which the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus fails to close properly, allowing the contents of the stomach (food and stomach acid) to enter the esophagus. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as heartburn, acid regurgitation, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. Besides this discomfort, GERD can lead to more serious complications (like esophageal cancer) when left untreated.

Research reported in The American Journal of Gastroenterology showed that excess body weight increases a person's risk of GERD symptoms. In this study, obese people (defined as a body mass index greater than 30) were 2.5 times more likely to have reflux symptoms or esophageal erosions than people with "normal" BMIs (between 18.5 and 24.9). They were also nearly three times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than those with a healthy body weight.

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Although researchers aren’t sure whether losing weight would reverse GERD—more studies will explore this possibility—there are plenty of other reasons to achieve a healthy weight. Keep in mind that people of a healthy weight may also experience this condition. Either way, if you are experiencing symptoms of GERD, be sure to check with your doctor to avoid future complications.