Every health condition has risk factors and this is also true of developing gallbladder disease and gallstone formation.

Being overweight, especially obese is a strong condition, which makes you prone to gallstone formation and impairment of gallbladder function.

The reason behind this is still not clear but there is a strong suspicion of the cholesterol factor being responsible.

About 70% of all people who suffer from gallbladder disease are obese or overweight and women are more likely to suffer than men. The reason for this gender preference is also still not clear.

The risk in women increases with the number of children and also with hormone replacement therapy.

The gallbladder is a small sac that lies attached beneath the liver. It stores bile, which is a yellowish green liquid produced by the liver.

From the gallbladder, the bile travels through the bile duct into the proximal part of the small intestine to aid in the digestion of fats. It also serves as a route of excretion of bilirubin, which the liver produces during the normal breakdown process of red blood cells.

Obesity and gallstones

Cholesterol is produced in the liver. It is one of the main components of bile and 80 percent of the gallstones are made of cholesterol.

In obese people, the liver has to work more to serve the additional body mass. An overworking liver produces more bile and cholesterol, which is stored in the gallbladder. Secondly, obese people have high cholesterol levels in their blood due to their high-fat diets.

High blood levels of cholesterol and an overworking liver contribute to excess cholesterol concentration in the bile.

The increased prevalence of gallstones in the obese is due to the supersaturation of cholesterol in bile.

Therefore, because of high cholesterol levels and because of the fact that gallstones are made of cholesterol, there are higher risks of gallstone formation in obese people. Gallstones affect one out three obese people while they affect one out ten people with normal weight.

The risk increases as the BMI rises and is very high in the morbidly obese.

Your waistline and gallstone risk

However, research indicates that your waistline can also contribute independently to the development of gallstones even if your BMI is normal. A waistline of 45 inches and more in men and 35 inches and more in women increase your risk.

This is because the fat around the abdomen is metabolically more active than fat anywhere else in the body including the subcutaneous fat. Large waistlines also increase the need for gallstone surgery.