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Weight Loss Could Help with Chronic Heartburn

Update Date: May 21, 2013 11:12 AM EDT

Weight loss has once again been linked to another potential health benefit. It is no surprise to learn that weight loss and exercise can help improve quality of life, yet, the obesity epidemic is still at large, pressuring health officials and experts to find new ways of encouraging physical activity. In a new study, researchers discovered that overweight and obese people who suffer from chronic heartburn reported to feel relief after losing weight.

The study, headed by Dr. Preetika Sinh, a gastroenterology fellow at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, focused on the potential effects of weight loss in patients who suffered from a persistent type of heartburn call gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). GERD is the most common form of chronic heartburn and when left untreated, it can lead to health complications, such as the narrowing of the esophagus. In this study, the research team recruited over 200 men and women with an average weight of 220 pounds and the average age of 46. The researchers measured GERD levels at the beginning of the study, the midpoint at six months and then at the end, which would be a full year since the start date.

At the beginning of the study, 38 percent of the sample group could be classified with GERD. At the midway point, after the average weight fell to 183 pounds, only 16 percent of the sample group could be classified with GERD. At the end of the study, most of the participants experienced weight gain, which led to the increase from 16 percent to 22 percent of people who suffered from heartburn symptoms. The researchers noted that even a small amount of weight gain, which would be considered less than five percent of the individual's initial weight, could already worsen symptoms. There were 41 patients that managed to control their weight. These participants experienced overall improvement with fewer symptoms.

Weight loss was primarily achieved via exercise. The researchers recommended the participants to exercise moderately via jogging or walking for about five hours per week. The average time spent exercising was a little under four hours. The researchers noted that for women specifically, exercising helped with heartburn, whereas for men, it did not seem to improve their symptoms dramatically. Weight loss was also achieved via nutrition and dieting, which helped both men and women with their heartburn symptoms.

The results did not find a cause-and-effect relationship, but they do suggest that exercise could help with chronic heartburn. The findings will be presented this Monday at the Digestive Disease Week meeting in Orlando, FL. 

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