GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) has been directly linked to even small gains in body weight, without the person having to be overweight, say researchers in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, June 1 issue.

One of the symptoms of GERD is heartburn.

Dr. B Jacobson, study author, from Boston University School of Medicine, USA, said that his study shows that any excess weight may have a negative effect on health, even small amounts which would not class the person as overweight. In other words, a person of normal weight who gains a bit of weight - and is still considered to be of normal weight - can become more prone to GERD.

GERD is the failure of the valve between the stomach and the esophagus to close properly. Stomach acids work their way up into the esophagus, which erodes. GERD can lead to cancer of the esophagus.

We have known for a while that obese/overweight people are prone to GERD. The association between GERD and BMI (body-mass index) was unclear. This study clearly showed a link.

10,545 women completed a questionnaire which asked them how often, how severely, and how long they suffered from GERD symptoms. They were categorized according to BMI, which was then referenced over to GERD data.

22% had GERD symptoms once a week or more. Of the women who had had GERD symptoms at some time, 55% described them as moderate.

Those with a BMI under 20 were 33% less likely to suffer from GERD than those with a BMI between 20-22.4.

Women with a BMI of 22.5-24.9 had a 38% higher chance of having GERD symptoms in comparison with the 20-22.4 BMI group.

Women with a BMI higher than 25 are classed as overweight.

The researchers found the increase in GERD risk correlated pretty much in parallel to the increase in the womens' BMI - the trend was linear.

The scientists stressed that they would not advise a person whose weight is ideal to lose weight if he/she is suffering from GERD symptoms.

However, if a person of ideal weight puts on a few pounds and notices his/her GERD symptoms become more severe, losing a few pounds may help alleviate the symptoms. They added that aiming for your ideal weight brings with it a host of other health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as reducing GERD symptoms.

GERD is more likely to get people to do something about it than worrying about the risk of diabetes or cancer is. This is because heartburn is an annoying problem that will make you think carefully about your weight. It hits you there and then - put an a few pounds and the annoyance immediately grows, lose a few and the bother immediately goes away.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today.