Although gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is prevalent, its cause is unknown. In theDecember 2004 issue of Gut, M. Nilsson, MD, and colleagues presented evidence from a largescalepopulation-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 riskfactors for symptomatic acid reflux in the study population, whereas dietary fiber and frequent physicalexercise might have reduced the risk of reflux. The associations between lifestyle factors andGERD in 3153 individuals reporting symptoms of severe heartburn and regurgitation were comparedwith 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 toexperience symptoms of reflux. Similarly, an increasingly cumulative number of cigarettessmoked during a lifetime increased the risk of reflux.
The amount and frequency of salted food consumption also showed a positive correlationwith the risk of GERD. Those who ate salted foods ≥3 times weekly were 50% more likely tohave reflux symptoms, than those who ate unsalted foods; individuals who always added extratable salt increased that risk to 70%.