Obesity is a prevalent health problem in the Western world. Inthe United States, 19.5% of adult men and 25% of adult womenare clinically obese (body mass index [BMI] >30 kg/m2). Gastrointestinal(GI) motility influences appetite, satiety, and rates atwhich food is digested and nutrients are assimilated. In theNovember 2004 issue of Obesity Research, J. Xing, MD, and J.Chen, PhD, reviewed the literature regarding obesity and GImotility to ascertain whether altered GI motility may be a contributingfactor to obesity.
Data on gastric capacity are mixed; some studies indicate nocorrelation between greater gastric capacity and obesity, whereasothers suggest that such a relationship may exist. Gastricaccommodation, which compares the stomach's fasting andpostprandial volumes, was not significantly different betweenobese and normal-weight patients. Gastric emptying of solidfoods, 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 obesepeople than in normal-weight counterparts. Scintigraphy studieswould help clarify limited data on the transit time of food in thesmall and large intestines. Therapies to modify GI motility toalter satiety and combat obesity are being investigated.