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Study offers hope for chocolate-loving reflux disease sufferers

U-M researchers reveal pathway, possible defense against chocolate's ill effects on stomach

Atlanta - For the 14 million Americans who suffer with chronic heartburn, a piece of chocolate may start as a joy to the tongue, but can end with a raging fire in the stomach.

But there may be new hope for those suffering chocolate-lovers.

Results from a new study at the University of Michigan Health System, presented today at the Digestive Diseases Week meeting in Atlanta, not only reveal the mechanism by which chocolate irritates the digestive tract of those who suffer with chronic heartburn - also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD - but also suggests a novel treatment.

"We demonstrated that chocolate induces GERD symptoms by compromising the ability of the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent the stomach acids from creeping back up the esophagus," says Chung Owyang, chief of the U-M Division of Gastroenterology and professor of internal medicine in the U-M Medical School. "We also found that a medication commonly used for nausea may ease these painful symptoms," adds Owyang, the study's principal investigator.

In the study, seven GERD patients underwent a series of tests. A tube containing a pH monitor was placed in the esophagus to measure acidity. A second tube was inserted into the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum, to deliver chocolate directly to the gut.

After the chocolate infusion, researchers measured the acidity in the esophagus and how long it took the acidity to rebound to normal levels. Researchers also determined the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, located at the junction between the stomach and the esophagus.

In a person who does not suffer from GERD, the sphincter acts as a valve and allows substances to go from the esophagus down to the stomach only. In GERD sufferers, the sphincter does not function properly, allowing acid and other substances in the stomach to pass b
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Contact: Valerie Gliem
vgliem@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
21-May-2001


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