Obesity, especially excessive abdominal fat, may be a much stronger contributor to acid reflux in white people than in other racial groups
Using data from more than 80,000 members of a California health plan, researchers found that a large waistline seemed to increase the risk of acid reflux symptoms among white adults. This was not true, however, of black or Asian study participants -- the only non-white groups included in the study.
Similarly, overall body mass index -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- showed a much stronger link to acid reflux symptoms in white individuals than in black or Asian adults.
The findings suggest that excess pounds may disproportionately increase acid reflux symptoms in white men and women, the study authors report in the medical journal Gut.
But exactly why that might be is unknown, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Douglas A. Corley of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California.
Their study included 80,110 Kaiser Permanente health plan members who underwent physical exams and answered questions about any heartburn or upper abdominal pain they'd suffered in the past 6 months.
Overall, 11 percent had reflux symptoms, with black women showing the highest rate, and Asian women the lowest.
Among white men and women, those in the group with the largest waist sizes were 85 percent more likely to suffer acid reflux than those who were slimmest around the middle. There was no similar risk seen among black or Asian study participants, however.
Considering the fact that abdominal obesity is more common among men than women, the findings suggest that a large waist may be a particular risk for white men, according to Corley's team.
Future studies, they write, should look at whether weight loss improves acid reflux symptoms, and whether the benefits differ among various ethnic groups.
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