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Fruits and vegetables reduce gallstone risk

Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables helps lower the risk of developing gallstones in women.

Fruits and vegetables reduce gallstone risk

Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables helps lower the risk of developing gallstones in women. Cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) is the most common treatment for symptomatic gallstones; stones that do not cause symptoms are generally left untreated. So rates of cholecystectomy are indicative of the rate of painful gallstones. Removal of gall bladder is required due to the formation of gallstones, which develop when the bile stored in the gallbladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material. Gallstones may not cause any symptoms, pass through the intestine, or result in severe pain, block the bile ducts, cause infection, or can even be fatal. Researchers from the Harvard Medical School in Boston analysed more than 77,000 American women in the long-running Nurses' Health Study and found that those who ate the most fruits and vegetables were less likely to require surgery to remove their gallbladder. The study participants were between the ages of 37 and 64 years. They answered dietary questionnaires that year, and had the rates cholecystectomy were followed through 2000. It was found, that roughly 6,600 women had their gallbladders removed. But those with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables at the study's start were 21 percent less likely than those with the lowest intake to have the surgery. Women in the group with highest intake of fruits and vegetables typically ate seven or more servings a day; those with the lowest intake generally ate less than three servings. However, the benefit is likely due to a complex interaction of nutrients. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables - particularly green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and other vitamin-C-rich foods can prevent gallstones from forming or from causing symptoms. The risk reduction was independent of other factors that increase the risk of gallstone formation, such as age, weight and diabetes. Citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, and all foods rich in vitamin C seemed to be particularly protective. According to the researchers, dietary fibre, antioxidant vitamins, which include vitamin C and minerals such as magnesium may all theoretically help prevent symptomatic gallstones. Since any single constituent in fruits and vegetables is unlikely to explain fully the beneficial effect, it is reasonable and practical to recommend an abundant fruit and vegeable consumption.
American Journal of Medicine,
October 2006
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