(OSLO, Norway) — For many, the rich food, abundant alcohol, weight gain and stress of the holidays likely lead to one thing: heartburn. But new research finds that an increasing number of people struggle with the burning and pressure of surging stomach acid all year long.
A new study reports that the number of people who frequently experience symptoms of heartburn, also called acid reflux, has almost doubled in the past decade. Acid reflux can mean more than just discomfort — too much surging stomach acid can create a web of scars in the esophagus, causing food to get stuck on its way down. Research also has connected acid reflux with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, particularly if it is chronic and untreated.
Researchers in Norway followed a group of nearly 30,000 Norwegians from 1995 until 2009, tracking their responses to a national health survey. They found that the number of people reporting symptoms of acid reflux at least once a week ballooned from 31 percent at the study’s beginning to 40 percent by the end, an increase of 30 percent. Responders reporting severe acid reflux rose by 24 percent, from 5 percent in 1995 to nearly 7 percent in 2009.
Women seemed to be more affected by the disease than men, and acid reflux became more common in people of both sexes as they crept toward middle age.
“For these people, their quality of life is majorly affected,” said study author Dr. Eivind Ness-Jensen, a gastroenterologist at Levanger Hospital in Norway. “Maybe more alarming is that the symptoms are associated with esophageal cancer.”
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