November 4, 2005

Obesity hikes Barrett’s esophagus risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Abdominal obesity is associated
with a higher risk of Barrett's esophagus, a condition in which
cells that line the esophagus become abnormal that may be a
precursor to cancer, according to a new report.

Obesity has previously been linked to an increased risk of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammation caused by
back up of stomach acid into the esophagus, which often
precedes Barrett's esophagus, the authors explain. But the
effect of obesity and body fat distribution on the risk of
Barrett's esophagus is unknown.

Dr. Hashem B. El-Serag from Baylor College of Medicine,
Houston, and colleagues analyzed data from 129 patients who
underwent upper endoscopy for non-urgent problems, 36 of whom
had Barrett's esophagus and 93 of whom had no such findings, to
investigate the association between obesity and abdominal fat
distribution on the risk for Barrett's esophagus.

Body-mass index (BMI) was significantly higher among
patients who had Barrett's esophagus than among the patients
who did not, the authors report in the American Journal of
Gastroenterology, with each unit increase in BMI conferring an
11-percent increase in the risk for Barrett's esophagus.

Increases in visceral abdominal fat tissue -- fat that
accumulates around the abdominal organs -- were also associated
with an increased risk for Barrett's esophagus, the results
indicate, but increases in subcutaneous fat tissue -- fat that
sits just under the skin -- were not.

In further analyses, visceral fat tissue remained
independently associated with Barrett's esophagus.

"This study shows a significant increase in the risk of
Barrett's esophagus with obesity, and specifically, visceral
obesity as measured by cross-sectional CT images," the authors

"Larger studies utilizing prospective enrollment of
patients are required to further examine this issue," the
investigators add.

SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, October 2005.