Gut Problems More Common in Overweight, Obese PWS Patients, Study Finds

Ana Pena, PhD avatar

by Ana Pena, PhD |

Share this article:

Share article via email
gut problems in PWS

Overweight or obese Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) patients are more likely to have gut problems and take medicines for gastrointestinal illnesses, a study has found.

The study also showed that surgery to treat gastrointestinal problems is less frequent in overweight patients, but there was no link between how much patients weighted and how many hospitalizations they had due to gut problems.

The data were presented at Nutrition 2019, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), held June 8-11 in Baltimore, Maryland. Results were presented by Zainab Alyousif, PhD, from the University of Florida, in a poster titled “Gastrointestinal Problems in Overweight and Obese Individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome.” The poster’s abstract was published in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition.

PWS affects many aspects of a patient’s life, including eating, behavior and mood, physical growth, and intellectual development.

One of the most typical symptoms of PWS is an excessive appetite and overeating behaviors, which easily can lead to a dangerous gain of weight, or even morbid obesity. In fact, PWS is the most common of the genetic disorders that cause life-threatening obesity in children.

In addition to an excessive appetite, PWS individuals have an altered body composition, and reduced metabolic rates.

But less is known about how much PWS patients are affected by gut problems. To address this question, the researchers evaluated the prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, GI-related hospitalizations and surgeries, use of GI-related medications, and their association with weight in a group of 764 PWS patients. Information was collected from patients and caregivers through a PWS research site.

As expected, results showed the number of overweight and obese individuals significantly increased as patients grew older.

Gut problems, including constipation, diarrhea, and stomach pain, were more common in individuals who weighed more (greater body mass index, aka BMI), while acid reflux was less frequent.

Consistent with these observations, both diarrhea and stomach pain were more prevalent in patients considered overweight and obese (compared to those of normal weight), as opposed to acid reflux, which was lower in overweight and obese patients.

Furthermore, overweight and obese PWS patients reported a greater use of GI medications compared to those of normal weight, but had fewer GI-related surgeries.

However, there was no relationship between patients’ weight and how many times they had been hospitalized due to gut complications.

The team concluded that the data obtained “suggest that weight status of individuals affected by PWS may impact GI symptoms, GI-related surgeries, and the use of GI-related medications, but not GI-related hospitalizations.”