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Arq Gastroenterol. 2005 Apr-Jun;42(2):122-7. Epub 2005 Aug 24.

Prevalence of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease in the urban Brazilian population.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Faculty of Medicine, Clinics Hospital, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.



The epidemiological aspects of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease have been object of growing interest in the last decade because of its increasing prevalence and the complications of the disease.


To evaluate the prevalence of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease as well as their main characteristics in the Brazilian urban population.


A national inquire enrolling 13,959 adults was conducted in 22 Brazilian cities. The inclusion criteria were the presence of heartburn at least once a week ("heartburn group") and age greater than 16 years old. Individuals with heartburn with frequency of more than once a week were considered as having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD group). Factors related to the complaint were asked such as predisposing factors, habits (tobacco, alcohol and coffee intake) and body mass index. In this populational study a probabilistic model was used.


The results are presented in absolute and relative frequency, which were ponderated estimates of the respective population figures. The global prevalence of heartburn was 11.9% (1,651 persons). Heartburn once a week was present in 4.6% (637 persons) and GERD in 7.3% (1,014 persons). The average ages of both groups were similar (men: 36.9 +/- 15.0; women: 39.6 +/- 15.1 yrs). Females were more affected in both groups. The occurrence of GERD increased with age and was more prevalent after 55 years old. The body mass index was in the normal range and similar in both groups (men: 24.7 +/- 4.6; women: 25.3 +/- 5.2 kg/m(2)). In both groups the individuals related their symptoms to food intake, fatty and spicy foods (heartburn group: 64.7%, 28.5%, 17.7%; GERD group: 55.0%, 25.9%, 11.7% respectively). In GERD group, stress (24.2%), health problems (22.3%) were more related to the symptoms than in heartburn group (20.0% and 15.0% respectively).


The global prevalence of heartburn (11.9%) is relatively high in the Brazilian urban population, although lower than the reported figure to other countries. Heartburn and GERD have higher prevalence in women and both are related to food intake, fatty and spicy foods; GERD is more prevalent in individuals older than 35 years old.

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