Mediterranean Diet May Reduce Risk of Gallstone Surgery

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A Mediterranean-style diet may reduce the risk of cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) for the treatment of gallstones, according to a 2017 study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Gallstone formation risk is due to multiple factors, some of which can’t be changed, such as ethnicity, older age, and genetics. Studies, though, have suggested that elements typical of the Western diet-saturated fats, cholesterol, and carbohydrates-are associated with an increased risk for gallstones, whereas diets high in fiber, unsaturated fats, vegetables, and legumes-attributes of the Mediterranean diet-may reduce gallstone risk.

To investigate the impact of diet on cholecystectomy risk, researchers evaluated the diets of more than 64,000 French women over a period of about 18 years. The researchers identified two different trends in diet: a Western pattern-characterized by processed meats, pizza, high alcohol drinks, eggs, rice, pasta, mayonnaise, and potatoes-and a Mediterranean pattern, characterized by seafood, olive oil, fruits, and vegetables. During the follow-up period of about 18 years, 2,778 cases of cholecystectomy were documented.

The researchers found that elements of the Mediterranean diet were associated with a reduction of 11 percent in the risk of cholecystectomy. The authors acknowledged that limitations of their study included focusing on a select population of well-educated French women and relying upon self-reporting of diets at the start of the study but not knowing if diets changed over time. The findings, though, should prompt further research in this area.