Can you eat fat with gallstones

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “can you eat fat with gallstones?” We will also discuss the factors that make gallstones more likely to appear and how your diet can affect your gallbladder health.

Can you eat fat with gallstones?

Yes, you can eat fat with gallstones. However, you need to limit the amount and nature of fats you consume. It has been proven that saturated fats can lead to an increment in your cholesterol levels, which makes you more likely to develop gallstones (1,2).

Gallstones are not other than cholesterol accumulations disposed of in a spherical disposition, so to avoid its formation you need to meet some lifestyle and diet modifications to decrease their chances of happening (1).

What are gallstones and what factors encourage their formation?

Gallstones are small stones that are caused by altered bile production, and excessive cholesterol secretion by the liver. When cholesterol levels in bile increase, it is more likely to produce gallstones (1,2).

Although most people have gallstones, only a few develop symptoms. You can be more likely to develop gallstones if you meet any of the following features (1):

  • Older than 40 years.
  • High saturated fat intake.
  • Female.
  • Overweight.
  • Obesity.

The diagnosis of gallstones is done by ultrasound imaging, some of the symptoms associated with gallstones are the following (after eating, especially high fat foods) (1):

  • Nausea
  • Epigastric colic
  • Diarrhea

What causes gallstone formation?

Gallstones are a very common problem, about 1 in every 10 adults has gallstones, but not all of them develop symptoms. The reason why gallstones develop is because of some chemical imbalance of bile inside the gallbladder (1,2).

Gallstones can also be formed if there are abnormal levels of bilirubin, or in bile salts. There is not a clear explanation for these abnormalities in bile composition. Or even if your gallbladder is not correctly emptied, gallstones can be formed (1,2).

What is the gallbladder used for? 

The gallbladder is a tiny organ that is located under the liver where bile, produced by the liver, is stored and concentrated to finally be released for the metabolization of fats (3).

Bile is composed of a mixture of the following substances (3):

  • Cholesterol. Cholesterol is very important to keep the integrity of cell membranes, and also to allow the production of important substances, such as:
  • Steroid hormones
  • Bile acids
  • Vitamin D
  • Bilirubin. It is a yellowish pigment of bile, it is produced by the liver, and its function is related to giving the feces their brownish color. It also works as an indicator of the correct functioning of the liver.
  • Bile salts. These compounds are the main organic solute contained in bile and help to emulsify dietary fats therefore, it helps with their proper absorption.

Bile, and gallbladder, are important to properly digest all foods with high concentrations of fats. The components of bile help emulsify the fats and produce small globules (4).

Because enzymes have greater affinity for water. The emulsification of dietary fats (combination of oil and water) makes it easier for your digestive enzymes to act and start to break down all fats into fatty acids. After fats break down, the fatty acids can be absorbed (4).

Can high levels of cholesterol cause gallstone formation?

Although it is not fully proven, it is possible that high cholesterol levels ease the formation of gallstones, as about 80% of them have been formed because of this (2). 

On the other hand, there is evidence suggesting that higher cholesterol concentration in bile is favored by higher cholesterol intake; on the other hand, obesity actually can increase the cholesterol secretion in the liver, increasing the risk of gallstones formation (1).

If your daily intake of cholesterol is high, then it may cause the formation of cholesterol crystals that will be grouped to form gallstones (1,2). 

If gallstones are not treated, they can cause  serious problems such as infection and inflammation of the gallbladder (3).

Severe inflammation and infection of gallbladder can result in the organ removal. If you want more information on this topic, please visit our article here (3).

What can you do to avoid gallstones?

As gallstones are related to a high-fat diet, a fair solution to this problem can be changing your diet to a healthy and balanced one, to achieve it, you may include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, and water (1,5,6,7).

Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of  fiber, vitamins, minerals, and some other important antioxidants like polyphenols and carotenoids. (5). 

The role of minerals and vitamins in gallstone formation is not well documented; vitamin C seems to reduce the formation of cholesterol crystals, while antioxidants like carotenoids help reduce the oxidation of bile and formation of cholesterol crystals (6,7).

Whole grain products are healthy carbohydrate sources, they contain fiber, and antioxidants. Some antioxidants like saponins and flavonoids help to reduce blood cholesterol, as well as reduce its secretion in the liver (therefore, they could prevent gallstone formation) (8). 

Some foods that belong to this group are (8):

  • Whole grain breads 
  • Brown and Wild Rice
  • Whole grain Pasta
  • Potatoes (with skin)
  • Oatmeal
  • Sorghum

Low-fat dairy products are a good source of Medium Chain Fatty Acids, these are easy to digest because are rapidly absorbed and require less amount of bile (9,10).

Limit your consumption of foods with high levels of both sugars and saturated fats, which does not mean that unsaturated fats can not cause gallstone formation (2).

Keep yourself well hydrated. Drink plenty of water, and some herbal teas as well (1). 

Having healthy habits can prevent most diseases, but that does not mean you need to completely cut off any food that is not “healthy”. To get more accurate advice, we encourage you to visit a nutritionist that will develop a plan that suits all your needs and expectations.

If you want to read more about this subject, please click here.

How can you replace high-fat foods?

Consuming too much fat can lead to serious health issues, and can disrupt your digestion. To achieve a low-fat diet, you can change some high-fat foods for their lower-fat options (11,12).

High-fat foodsLower-fat options
Butter, oils, ghee.Jam, honey, oil sprays.
Whole milk, cream.Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, half-fat crème fraîche.
Cheddar, Brie, and Stilton cheese.Cottage cheese, mozzarella, and ricotta.
Cakes, biscuits, pastries, crisps, and nuts.Rice cakes, meringues, low-fat options.

Talk to your nutritionist about some other options you can change to avoid gallstones.


In this brief guide, we addressed the query, “can you eat fat with gallstones?” We also discussed the factors that make gallstones more likely to appear and how your diet can affect your gallbladder health.


  1. Sun H, Warren J, Yip J, Ji Y, Hao S, Han W, et al. Factors influencing gallstone formation: A review of the literature. Biomolecules, 2022;12(4):550.
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  1. Roopashree PG, Shetty SS, Suchetha Kumari N. Effect of medium chain fatty acid in human health and disease. J Funct Foods, 2021;87(104724):104724.
  1. Valencia-Rodríguez A, Aquino-Matus J, Vera-Barajas A, Qi X, Méndez-Sánchez N. New therapeutic options for bile acid malabsorption diarrhea. Ann Transl Med, 2019;7(22):695.
  1. Altomare DF, Rotelli MT, Palasciano N. Diet after cholecystectomy. Curr Med Chem, 2019;26(19):3662–5.
  1. Ribas Blasco Y, Pérez Muñante M, Gómez-Fernández L, Jovell-Fernández E, Oms Bernad LM. Low-fat diet after cholecystectomy: Should it be systematically recommended? Cir Esp, 2020;98(1):36–42.

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