November 02, 2004
The Health Professionals Follow-up Study has been sending out diet questionnaires for 28 years. Combing through this mine of information has yielded some interesting findings. The latest is that a high intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil in the diet is associated with a reduced risk for gallstone disease in men.
The type of dietary fat one eats has been found to influence formation of gallbladder stones, although the mechanism has been open to question. Several animal studies have shown that a diet rich in fats containing cis unsaturated or monosaturated fatty acids such as oleic or linoleic acid cuts down on bile stones.
Previous prospective gallstone studies have shown benefit of unsaturated fats such as corn and olive oil but have either had small numbers in the study or other confounding factors which have called their conclusions into question. The Health Professionals study had high numbers and carefully eliminated bias. The only shortcoming is that it includes only men, we hope that the benefits seen here would apply to women too.
Dr. Deane reports that several people have reported that by eating olive oil and lemon juice they can painlessly pass gall stones in the stool. One patient reported passing a 2 inch stone! Doctors are skeptical - ask anyone who has actually passed a gall stone. A report in the medical journal Lancet reports that what gallstone sufferers see are not gallstones, but "soap stones" caused by digestive juices acting on the mixture.
Once again we see that diet affects health; "you are what you eat."