Gallstones: Causes May Include Sugar In Diet

Gallstones are very common, affecting one in five women before the age of 60. The most common risk factors for the disease are being overweight and overexposure to estrogen. But diet remains one of the most influential factors in the risk of gallstones. Some studies suggest that regular consumption of refined sugar could double the risk of painful gallstones.

It has been suggested that consuming more than 40 grams of sugar per day could double the risk of symptomatic gallstones.

This is because refined white sugars and starches can increase insulin secretion, which rids the blood of sugar.

High insulin, in turn, increases the concentration of cholesterol in the bile – a fluid that helps digestion.

Up to 70 percent of gallstones form when cholesterol particles collect together inside the gallbladder.

READ MORE: Gallstones: Foods and Drinks That May Lower Your Risk – What To Avoid

In addition, the solid mass grows larger each time the bile fluid covers it.

It does this by inducing changes in lipoprotein metabolism and, therefore, changes in the composition of bile.

This has also been illustrated in studies examining the effects of sugary drinks.

One study found that people who drank two or more soft drinks a day doubled their risk of developing gallbladder cancer and increased their risk of bile duct cancer by 79%.


Besides sugar, egg yolks, red meat, and dietary cholesterol all significantly increase the risk of gallstones by increasing bile cholesterol saturation.

Results from a French study suggest that the risk of gallstone disease increases in men who consume more than 2,500 calories per day.

Medical News Today says carbohydrates such as added sugars and sweeteners, white flour, and refined grains should all be avoided.

Symptoms of gallstones

Gallstones usually don’t cause any symptoms, according to the NHS.

When gallstones cause symptoms, it is because they are stuck in the narrow outlet of the gallbladder.

This can happen after a meal when the muscles inside the gallbladder come in contact to secrete bile in the intestines.

The NHS explains: ‘If a gallstone blocks one of the bile ducts, it can cause sudden and severe abdominal pain, known as biliary colic.

A blockage can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain that can last up to five hours, although sometimes it lasts a few minutes.

According to the NHS, symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Persistent pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills and chills
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite.

If such problems arise, your doctor may recommend surgery to completely remove the gallbladder, as gallstones often reappear, the Mayo Clinic explains.

Alternatively, certain medications could help dissolve gallstones, but it could take months or years to work, the health body adds.

Rachel J. Bradford