A team of researchers studying nearly 1,000 men and women participating in a randomized trial evaluating three weight-loss programs in Minnesota found that associations between gastrointestinal symptoms, diet and exercise may have implications for the treatment of both obesity and gastrointestinal problems.

The physiological mechanisms linking gastrointestinal symptoms, obesity and exercise still need to be determined, said psychologist Rona Levy, a University of Washington professor of social work whose research focuses on common gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome in adults.

"Our main finding is that the amount of exercise people in a weight loss program do is related to gastrointestinal symptoms. In statistical terms, this means exercise is protective against gastrointestinal symptoms. This isn't surprising, but it has not been demonstrated before with this population. Science has now validated what people have been guessing," she said.

"But we don't know if this is a 'did the chicken or the egg come first' kind of a thing. We are not sure which is the key, exercise or gastrointestinal symptoms. It is plausible that if a physician put a patient on an exercise program to lose weight the GI problems experienced might hamper the patient's ability to exercise."

People in the study reported experiencing a variety of problems: 19 percent said they had abdominal pain, 13 percent had irritable bowel syndrome, 25 percent had diarrhoea and 20 percent had bloating.

"This study is another argument for exercise. Even though anyone engaging in a weight-loss program should know that gastrointestinal symptoms may impede their ability to exercise, those symptoms may also be alleviated by exercise," said Levy.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Washington