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Avoid gallbladder surgery - eat your fruits and vegetables!

A handful of fresh asparagus lying on a picnic table



Surgery is the most common treatment for gallstones: over 800,000 Americans have their gallbladders removed every year. Although most studies of gallbladder disease and prevention focus on specific nutrients in the diet, scientists at the University of Kentucky Medical Center decided to take a broader approach. They chose to investigate whether fruits and vegetables, which are protective against other chronic diseases, might also protect people from gallbladder disease (Amer J Med 2006;119(9):760-767).

They utilized data from a large, prospective study called the Nurses' Health Study. Their chosen time period, between 1984 and 2000, included 77,090 women between the ages of 37 and 64. For the purposes of the study, those women who had their gallbladder removed or had cancer of any type prior to 1984 were excluded from the study. During the study, all participants were asked to report on their health and complete a dietary questionnaire every two years, which allowed the researchers to assess not only their total fruit and vegetable intake, but also specific types of fruits and vegetables.

They found that those women who ate the most fruits and vegetables (over 6.9 servings per day) reduced their risk of gallbladder removal by 21%. Even adjusting for the subject's intake of fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and various types of fats did not change the results. Most interesting is that the protective effects of fruits and vegetable intake was even stronger for those women whose Body Mass Index was over 30 or for those who currently smoked.

What this means for you:

The researchers in this study noted that green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables and fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C appeared to have the most protective effects. It's easy to get more in your diet: Stock up on fruits and vegetables so that they're handy for when you find yourself looking in the refrigerator for something to snack on. Pack them in your lunch and take extra to work so that you're not heading for the vending machine. Your waistline will thank you in more ways than one.

First posted: September 12, 2006