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What increases the risk of developing gallstones?

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Updated July 21, 2009

Photo by A.D.A.M. Photo by A.D.A.M.
Question: What increases the risk of developing gallstones?
There are several risk factors for developing gallstones.
Answer:
  • Obesity
    Clinical studies have shown that being even moderately overweight can increase the risk for developing gallstones.

  • Rapid weight loss
    When an individual losses weight rapidly for another reason, the body metabolizes fat at a faster rate. When the body metabolizes fat at these levels, the liver secretes more cholesterol into the bile. The higher level of cholesterol can increase the risk of developing gallstones.

  • Estrogen
    The increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, or the use of birth control pills appear to increase cholesterol levels in bile and decrease gallbladder movement, both of which can lead to gallstones.

  • Ethnicity
    Studies have shown that Native Americans (especially from the Pima tribe) secrete higher levels of cholesterol in their bile, putting them at a higher risk of developing gallstones.

  • Gender
    Women are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men.

  • Age
    The chances of developing gallstones increases with age. People over age 60 are more likely to develop gallstones than younger people.

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
    Drugs that the lower cholesterol levels in the blood actually increase the amount of cholesterol secreted in bile. This in turn can increase the risk of gallstones.

Sources:

"Common Gastrointestinal Problems - Gallstones." American College of Gastroenterology. 13 Jul 2009

"Gallstones." American College of Gastroenterology. 13 Jul 2009

"Gallstones." NIH Publication No. 07–2897 July 2007. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). 13 Jul 2009

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