Exercise linked to a lower risk of gallstones

May 20, 2003 in Gastrointestinal Health, Nutrition Topics in the News, Sports Nutrition and Exercise

Exercise linked to a lower risk of gallstones

A daily run or swim could put real distance between you and painful, debilitating gallstones, according to a new study.

The UK researchers believe that a very active lifestyle -- doing more than an hour of physical activity a day, with an active job -- can reduce your risk of gallstones by about 60 percent. While most gallstones produce no symptoms and dissolve naturally, others can cause painful blockages that require surgical intervention.

Gallstones arise when bile lying within the gall bladder collects and settles. Over time, cholesterol found in the bile can crystallize and form stones. Exercise may literally "shake up" this pooled bile, discouraging crystallization. The theory would be that if you do a lot of physical activity, your bile doesn't get time to aggregate and form cholesterol crystals to form a lot of stone.

Testing this theory, the UK researchers compared rates of daily physical activity and occurrence of gallstones in over 25,000 adults between 45 and 79 years of age. About 175 of those questioned went on to develop gallstones. They found that the more physical activity, the less the risk of developing gallstones, with the most-active group exhibiting a 60 percent drop in gallstone risk compared with inactive, "couch potato" types.

The findings held even after the researchers accounted for other factors known to affect gallstone risk, such as obesity, alcohol consumption and reproductive history. The researchers said it's still too early to issue firm recommendations, however.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.