HealthDay News — Losing weight can improve gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in obese and overweight adults, whereas regaining even small amounts can worsen symptoms, researchers found.

“Weight loss and increased physical activity can be promoted as nonpharmacological, nonsurgical [treatment] methods in GERD patients,” Preetika Sinh, MD, from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, and colleagues reported at Digestive Disease Week 2013 in Orlando, Fla.

The researchers studied 213 obese and overweight adults participating in a structured weight loss program, who completed the validated reflux disease questionnaire at baseline, six and 12 months to assess GERD. Participants had a mean age of 46 years; 67% were women and 84% were white.

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All subjects had lost significant weight at six months, the researchers found. Weight loss was associated with a significant reduction in mean GERD score (0.72 vs. 2.15; P<0.01), and a significant reduction in the proportion of subjects with GERD (16% vs. 38%; P<0.01).

At 12 months 172 participants regained a substantial amount of weight. Weight gain was associated with an increase in mean GERD scores (0.7 vs. 1.2; P<0.01) as well as an increase in proportion of participants with GERD (16% vs. 22%; P=0.06).

Weight gain affected GERD score in a dose-response fashion, with those who gained less than 5% experiencing a 0.41 increase in GERD score (P<0.05) and those who gained more than 5% experiencing a 0.73 increase in GERD score (P<0.01).

In women, increased physical activity was associated with an improvement in GERD score independent of weight change, age or dietary intake, the researchers found.

“This prospective cohort study shows a dynamic relationship between GERD symptoms and body weight — weight loss leading to a significant improvement in GERD symptoms, whereas even a small amount of weight gain (<5 percent) leading to worsening of symptoms,” Sinh and colleagues concluded.


  1. Sinh P et al. Abstract #748. “Impact of weight loss and physical activity on GERD symptoms.” Presented at: Digestive Disease Week. May 18-21, 2013. Orlando.