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Although gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is prevalent, its cause is unknown. In the December 2004 issue of Gut, M. Nilsson, MD, and colleagues presented evidence from a largescale population-based study involving 2 consecutive public health surveys in Nord-Trondelag, Norway. The results of the study suggested that smoking and excessive salt intake were significant risk factors for symptomatic acid reflux in the study population, whereas dietary fiber and frequent physical exercise might have reduced the risk of reflux. The associations between lifestyle factors and GERD in 3153 individuals reporting symptoms of severe heartburn and regurgitation were compared with those of 40,210 individuals with no reported symptoms of reflux over the previous year.
Individuals who had smoked daily for >20 years (versus <1 year) were 70% more likely to experience symptoms of reflux. Similarly, an increasingly cumulative number of cigarettes smoked during a lifetime increased the risk of reflux.
The amount and frequency of salted food consumption also showed a positive correlation with the risk of GERD. Those who ate salted foods ≥3 times weekly were 50% more likely to have reflux symptoms, than those who ate unsalted foods; individuals who always added extra table salt increased that risk to 70%.