Background: Animal and human data suggest that a diet high in refined carbohydrates leads to gallstone formation. However, no data are available on the role of dietary carbohydrates on gallbladder volume or on cholesterol crystal formation. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that a high carbohydrate diet would alter gallbladder volume and enhance cholesterol crystal formation. Methods: At 8 weeks of age, 60 lean and 36 obese leptin-deficient female mice were fed a 45% carbohydrate diet while an equal number of lean and obese mice were fed a 75% carbohydrate diet for 4 weeks. All animals then underwent cholecystectomy, and gallbladder bile volume was recorded. Bile was pooled, filtered, and maintained in a water bath at 37°C for 14 days. Birefringent cholesterol crystals in bile were counted daily; crystal observation time and crystal mass were determined. Results: The crystal observation time was significantly shortened in both lean and obese mice on the 75% diet compared with their counterparts on the 45% diet. The crystal mass was significantly increased in the lean mice on the 75% diet compared with the 45% diet. Gallbladder volumes were significantly reduced in both lean and obese mice on the 75% diet compared with their counterparts on the 45% diet. Conclusions: These data suggest that a high carbohydrate diet decreases gallbladder volume, shortens cholesterol crystal observation time, and increases crystal mass. We conclude that dietary carbohydrates may play a role in cholesterol gallstone formation by altering biliary motility and by enhancing crystal formation.
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