Obesity Increases Diverticulitis Risk

Diverticulitis is a common digestive disease that involves the inflammation or infection of diverticula (small pouches) most often found in the colon. Patients generally present with the classical triad of left lower quadrant pain, fever, and leukocytosis. Complications can include perforation and peritonitis.

A study just published by Lisa Strate and colleagues from the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, in Gastroenterology, suggests that this complication may be more common in obese than in normal weight men.

In a prospective cohort study of 47,228 male health professionals (40-75 years old) who were free of diverticular disease in 1986 (baseline) 801 incident cases of diverticulitis and 383 incident cases of diverticular bleeding were documented during 18 years of follow-up.

After adjustment for other risk factors, men with a BMI >30 had an almost 80% greater risk for diverticulitis and a 320% (3.2-fold) greater risk for diverticular bleeding than men with a BMI of 21.

Men in the highest quintile of waist circumference, compared with those in the lowest, had a 60% increased risk for diverticulitis and an almost 2-fold increased risk for diverticular bleeding.

The authors conclude that at least in men, obesity is a significant risk factor for diverticulitis and diverticular bleeding.

Whether or not weight loss leads to a reduced risk of diverticulitis or diverticular complications remains to be seen.