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Obesity is a prevalent health problem in the Western world. In the United States, 19.5% of adult men and 25% of adult women are clinically obese (body mass index [BMI] >30 kg/m2). Gastrointestinal (GI) motility influences appetite, satiety, and rates at which food is digested and nutrients are assimilated. In the November 2004 issue of Obesity Research, J. Xing, MD, and J. Chen, PhD, reviewed the literature regarding obesity and GI motility to ascertain whether altered GI motility may be a contributing factor to obesity.
Data on gastric capacity are mixed; some studies indicate no correlation between greater gastric capacity and obesity, whereas others suggest that such a relationship may exist. Gastric accommodation, which compares the stomach's fasting and postprandial volumes, was not significantly different between obese and normal-weight patients. Gastric emptying of solid foods, however, was more rapid in obese patients than in controls. This may prevent normal feedback mechanisms for satiety, leading to greater hunger and desire for eating in obese people than in normal-weight counterparts. Scintigraphy studies would help clarify limited data on the transit time of food in the small and large intestines. Therapies to modify GI motility to alter satiety and combat obesity are being investigated.