Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. The relationship between obesity and gastrointestinal (GI) tract symptomatology, however, remains poorly understood.

In the September 2004 issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology, Silvia Delgado-Aros, MD, PhD, and colleagues reported the results of their study on the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and specific GI symptoms in individuals in the community. Results from 1963 residents of Olmsted County, Minn, demonstrated that the prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) in this group was 23%. Positive correlations were noted between BMI and frequent vomiting (P = .02), upper abdominal pain (P = .03), bloating (P = .002), and diarrhea (P = .01). Although the prevalence of lower abdominal pain, nausea, and constipation increased with increasing BMI, no significant associations between BMI and these symptoms were found.

The authors concluded that increased BMI is associated with an increase in upper GI symptoms, bloating, and diarrhea. They noted, however, that causeand- effect relationships and the mechanisms of these associations require further investigation.