People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are often warned against fatty food, which is thought to exacerbate heartburn symptoms. (GERD is a chronic condition in which acid from the stomach flows back into the esophagus, causing severe heartburn. GERD has been shown to raise a person's risk of developing esophageal cancer.) But while a low-fat diet has many health benefits, it may not necessarily help people with GERD, according to researchers from the University of Milan in Italy.
After a review of several studies on the subject, he concludes that too many calories, not too much fat, are the reason why certain meals upset the stomach. While several studies appeared to show an increase in acid reflux after high-fat meals, those meals also were higher in calories than the low-fat meals used as a comparison.
In a recent study, Italian scientists counted episodes of reflux in 13 healthy people and 14 patients with GERD after a high-fat meal in which 52% of calories came from fat, and after a meal in which 24% of calories came from fat. Both meals contained the same total number of calories. In the study the fat content did not appear to influence the incidence of GERD. However, calorie-rich and high-fat meals are often one and the same. A gram of fat contains 9 calories, while a gram of protein or carbohydrate contains only 4 calories. Thus, meals that contain a lot of fat also tend to contain a lot of calories, too.
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