Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects as many as 20% of the population, with a number of studies showing that obesity in adults is associated with more reflux symptoms. But similar studies in children have been inconclusive--until now.

Dr. Annamaria Staiano and her group of widely respected researchers in Naples* evaluated all the children referred to the general pediatric clinic at their hospital over a 6-month period. They carefully measured each child, took a careful medical history  and recorded and graded all the reflux symptoms over the previous 2 months.

Their findings were not unexpected. Obese children had significantly more reflux symptoms than those twho were normal weight, with overweight children following that trend as well. These features held up whether waist size alone was used or whether the Body Mass Index (BMI) was calculated as a comparison of weight to height.

BOTTOM LINE: Even moderate weight gain seems to increase the tendency for developing GERD, with obesity having a much higher likelihood that reflux will develop (along with other, later and more severe results). Thinking of that in reverse, it might be worthwhile to focus attention on the discomfort of reflux to help children who are overweight understand and address the consequences of their weight, since they often have difficulty connecting to their future risks of diabetes, high blood pressure, liver and heart disease.

*P Quitadamo, JPGN 55:72-75, 2013.