Weight Loss And Gallstones

Can losing weight cause a gallstone attack?

gallstones and weight loss
An illustration of gallstones. PIXOLOGICSTUDIO/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

A gallstone attack is a painful condition caused by the formation of small stones in the gallbladder. Obesity is a risk factor for gallstones. But rapid weight loss has also been associated with the condition. This may lead you to wonder if weight loss can cause gallstones to form.

The Link Between Weight Loss and Gallstones

Medical experts are not exactly sure why gallstones form in some people. But there are certain factors that they believe may increase your risk of having problems with them.

If you carry too much body fat, especially in the belly area, you are at higher risk for developing the condition.

But before you go on a diet to decrease your risk, it's important to know that quick weight loss may also put you at risk for gallstones. Losing weight on a very low-calorie diet or after weight loss surgery can increase your risk of gallstones. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), "People who lose more than 3 pounds per week may have a greater chance of getting gallstones than those who lose weight more slowly." 

In addition, losing and regaining weight over and over again (often called weight-cycling or yo-yo dieting) can also increase your risk of gallstones. Those who lose and regain more than 10 pounds have a higher risk of gallstones than those who lose weight and maintain their weight loss. 

How to Lose Weight Safely to Prevent Gallstones

The NIDDK provides a list of guidelines to help smart dieters decrease their risk of having problems with gallstones.

First, they recommend that you avoid crash diets. This includes very low-calorie diets where you consume fewer than 800 calories per day. If you are on a very low-calorie diet that is supervised by a physician, tell him or her about any past experience with gallbladder disease, gallstones or gallstone attacks.

In addition, choose a diet full of healthy foods to slim down. An eating plan that includes diet-friendly high-fiber foods, healthy fats and limited sugar and refined grains will help you lose weight and keep your risk for gallstone problems lower.

Lastly, the organization recommends that you lose no more than two pounds a week on any diet. Even though losing a small amount of weight may improve your gallstone risk, sny diet that leads to rapid weight loss may not be sound and can lead to health problems. Talk to your doctor if you are rapidly losing weight as sudden weight changes can signal serious health issues.

*Edited by Malia Frey, Verywell.com Weight Loss Expert


Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed: January 19, 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/

Douglas O. Olsen, MD, FACS. Gallbladder Disease and the Obese Patient. Obesity Action Coalition. Accessed: January 19, 2016. http://www.obesityaction.org/educational-resources/resource-articles-2/obesity-related-diseases/gallbladder-disease-and-the-obese-patient

Health Information. Dieting and Gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed: January 19, 2016. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/dieting_gallstones/Pages/dieting-and-gallstones.aspx

Health Information. Gallstones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Accessed: January 19, 2016. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/gallstones/Pages/facts.aspx

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