Objective: Dietary intake has long been looked upon as a potentially modifiable risk factor for gallbladder disease (GBD), here defined as either having gallstones or having had surgery for gallstones. This paper reviews the epidemiological evidence for an association between dietary intake and GBD, focusing on six dietary factors that have received the most attention in studies in this area: energy intake, fatty acids, cholesterol, carbohydrates and fibre, calcium and alcohol. The objectives of this review are to evaluate the potential usefulness of altering the diet to prevent GBD and to consider future research in this area.
Design: We reviewed all English-language epidemiological studies on diet and cholelithiasis that were cross-sectional, cohort or case-control in design and that were indexed in the Medline database from 1966 to October 1997.
Results: A positive association was suggested with simple sugars and inverse associations with dietary fibre and alcohol. No convincing evidence was found for a role for energy intake or intake of fat or cholesterol. Variable means of ascertaining cases and inaccurate measurement of dietary intake may contribute to variation in results across studies.
Conclusions: Some specific components of the diet that may affect GBD include simple sugars, fibre and alcohol, but whether risk for GBD can be reduced by altering intake of a specific dietary factor has not been established. Although no specific dietary recommendations can be made to reduce risk of GBD per se, a 'healthy' diet aimed at reducing risk of other diseases might be expected to reduce risk for GBD as well.