People whose weight fluctuates often are putting themselves at serious risk of developing gall stones. Athletes who cycle weight (intentionally gaining then losing weight) for competition are dramatically increasing their chances of developing stones.
The University of Kentucky Medical Center performed a research study of over 25000 men, the men reported any change in weight over a period of four years and were then grouped into one of four categories: those who maintained their original weight, those who were lightly cycled (a five to nine pound fluctuation), those who cycled moderately (a ten to nineteen pound fluctuation), and those who heavily cycled (more than twenty pound fluctuation).
The results of this study, published in the Archives of Internal medicine are rather alarming. When compared to the subjects who maintained their original weight throughout the period, those who fell into the light category were twenty-one percent more likely to develop a stone, those in the moderate category were up thirty-eight percent over those who maintained and the heavy cycle category was over seventy-five percent more likely to develop a stone than the maintainers.
Researchers indicate that the most likely cause comes from the weight gain portion of the cycling due to the fact that the majority of the weight returning is in the form of body fat. Large swings in weight, particularly body fat can cause metabolic abnormalities that may result in the development of gallstones.
Often gallstones will go unnoticed, having no physical symptoms to speak of, but can in certain instances, lead to a blockage or infection requiring surgery or other medical treatment to rectify. If a stone is obstructing the gall bladder, there will be severe pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. The pain comes and goes in muscular contractions as the body tries to rid itself of the stone. Other symptoms of gallstones can include mild pain under the right hand side of the ribcage, often appearing after the consumption of foods that are high in fat.
If a stone or stones completely obstruct the gall bladder and infection occurs the person could develop a fever and jaundice.
Many amateur and professional athletes, particular those involved in combat sports like boxing, wrestling and martial arts cycle their weight intentionally to prepare for competition. They will lose sometimes fifteen or twenty pounds in a very brief period of time to “make weight” for a match or fight. The intention here is simple, if they lose enough weight by the contests weigh in, they would probably find themselves in competition against a naturally smaller and therefore weaker opponent. Once the weigh in is over the competitor is free to gain back whatever weight he lost in preparation for the contest, most of which will come back as body fat, there by increasing the future chance of developing gall stones by as much as seventy-five percent.
If trainers and promoters had access to this information and could make it public to their competitors maybe the competitors would be more likely to compete at their natural body weight, not only eliminating this increased risk for developing gall stones, but eliminating a host of other problems consistent with yo-yo weight fluctuation.
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