February 13, 2006

Expanding waistline raises women’s gallstone risk

LONDON (Reuters) - An expansion in a woman's waistline
increases her risk of suffering from gallstones and needing
surgery to remove them, a study published on Tuesday showed.

The study of more than 42,000 women in the United States
showed women with a waistline of 36 inches or more were nearly
twice as likely to require surgery to remove gallstones than
slimmer females.

Waist-to-hip ratio, dividing the waist size by hip size,
was another way of assessing the risk of gallstones. Women with
a ratio 0.86 in the study had a 40 percent greater chance of
developing gallstones than those with a ratio of 0.70 or less.

"Abdominal circumference and waist to hip ratio were
associated with an increased risk of cholecystectomy," said Dr
Chung-Jyi Tsai, of the University of Kentucky, referring to the
surgery on the gallbladder.

Gallstones develop when bile, a liquid that helps to digest
fats, hardens into pieces of stone-like material. They can
range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball.

Obesity is a leading risk factor behind gallstones,
especially in women, but Tsai and his team said that if a woman
had a bulging midriff, even if she was not overweight or obese,
there was an increased chance of gallstones.

The researchers, who reported the findings in the journal
Gut, examined women who were between 30 and 66 in 1986 when the
study began and followed up their medical history to 2000.

By the end of the study, more than 3,000 of the women
needed gallstone surgery.

Diabetes, cholesterol-lowering drugs, rapid weight loss,
fasting, being female and over 60 were other risk factors for