Gallstones in obesity and weight loss

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2000 Dec;12(12):1347-52. doi: 10.1097/00042737-200012120-00015.


The prevalence of cholesterol gallstones is increased in obese persons. The risk is especially high in those with the highest body mass index (relative risk 5-6). Weight loss further increases the risk of gallstones: the prevalence of new gallstones reaches 10-12% after 8-16 weeks of low-calorie diet and more than 30% within 12-18 months after gastric by-pass surgery. About one-third of the stones are symptomatic. The increased prevalence of stones is mostly due to supersaturation of bile with cholesterol, because of an increased synthesis by the liver and secretion into bile. Saturation is further increased during weight loss. It returns toward normal after weight stabilization at a lower level, allowing spontaneous stone dissolution in some cases. Identified risk factors for gallstones during weight loss are a relative loss of weight greater than 24% of initial body weight, a rate of weight loss greater than 1.5 kg per week, a very low calorie diet with no fat, a long overnight fast period and a high serum triglyceride level. Ursodeoxycholic acid decreases cholesterol saturation of bile and gallstone incidence during weight loss. Other preventive measures include a control of weight loss rate, a reduction of the length of overnight fast, and maintenance of a small amount of fat in the diet.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholelithiasis / diagnosis
  • Cholelithiasis / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Weight Loss