Diabetes and Gallstones: Is there a link?

Diabetes and gallstone

Type 2 diabetes is ever increasing health problem in the world. People with type 2 diabetes suffer from many complications related to high blood glucose. However, it has been noticed that people with type 2 diabetes can experience other health-related problems leading to hospital admissions. One of these problems is an increased risk of gallstones. In the western world, gallstones are a major reason for hospital admissions. The economic cost of gallstones treatment is enormous.  This article will review if there is a link with type 2 diabetes and gallstones.



First, we will look at research data to review if people with type 2 diabetes suffer more with gallstones then people without diabetes. There have been many studies looking at the risk of gallstones in people with type 2 diabetes. The data has not been very consistent. Some studies have pointed towards the high risk of gallstones in people with type 2 diabetes. Whereas, some studies have shown no link with gallstones and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, there was a need to pool the data of all these studies together in a Meta-analysis. The benefit of Meta-analysis is that it yields results which are more robust and stronger than individual studies.


In 2016 Meta-analysis published in the Journal of Diabetes and Its Complications analyzed ten studies containing 7 million participants in total. The Meta-analysis demonstrated that diabetes increases the risk of gallbladder stones and gall bladder diseases. It affects both men and women equally.



So far, we do not fully understand why there is an increased risk of gallstones in type 2 diabetes. There are some theories which are discussed below.


Increased weight and obesity is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a significant risk factor of gallbladder disease. Obesity causes excess secretion of cholesterol into the bile. This cholesterol accumulates in the gallbladder and eventually results in the formation of gallstones.


Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is insulin resistance. Increased weight is one of the main reasons for insulin resistance. A study by Jolin Center in the USA confirmed that insulin resistance is very likely an important factor which can cause gallstones.  


People with type 2 diabetes also have high levels of triglycerides. Triglycerides are a kind of fat that encourages the formation of gallstones. This fact has been verified by the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.


A second theory is that autonomic neuropathy contributes to the formation of gallstones. Autonomic neuropathy means damage to the involuntary nerves. Diabetes is a significant cause of autonomic neuropathy. A study documented in the International Journal of Medical and Dental Sciences has shown that the gallbladder does not release bile efficiently when the nerves are damaged, and the resulting sludge triggers the formation of gallstones




The best way to prevent the formation of gallstones in people with type 2 diabetes is by controlling the reason behind both conditions.

The following tips can help:

  • Controlling diet – eating a balanced diet
  • Exercise – it is recommended the in general people should exercise 150 minutes per week

Both exercise and diet will help with weight loss. We know that weight loss will help with the reduction in insulin resistance.


  • Controlling blood glucose is an important part of overall care for type 2 diabetes. This includes working with your doctor to be on appropriate treatment.  

When diabetes is well-controlled, autonomic neuropathy will not develop, and also, the triglyceride level in your blood will be lower. This will reduce the risk of developing gallstones.


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