Chronic (obesity) and acute intraabdominal pressure increases appear to favor gastroesophageal reflux, but the mechanism is not completely understood. We hypothesized that it could be due to an alteration in the resistance gradient between the stomach and the gastroesophageal junction, even increasing intragastric resistance above resistance at the gastroesophageal junction. Hence, we used a pneumatic resistometer to measure gastric and gastroesophageal resistance to flow in 11 lean healthy controls and eight morbidly obese individuals without gastroesophageal reflux disease. Resistance was quantified at rest and during acute intraabdominal pressure increases, both in the recumbent and sitting positions. We found that gastroesophageal junction resistance was higher than gastric resistance in lean as well as in obese subjects (P less than 0.001). In obese individuals both gastric and gastroesophageal junction resistance were increased (P less than 0.001), thus a normal gastric-gastroesophageal junction resistance gradient was maintained. Body position did not modify resistance. Acute increases in intraabdominal pressure decreased the gastric-gastroesophageal junction resistance gradient similarly in obese and lean subjects. We conclude that obesity by itself does not appear to predispose to gastroesophageal reflux, but it creates intraabdominal conditions that may favor reflux whenever the gastroesophageal barrier becomes weakened.