Gallstone disease is common: >700,000 cholecystectomies and costs of approximately 6.5 billion dollars annually in the U.S. The burden of disease is epidemic in American Indians (60-70%); a corresponding decrease occurs in Hispanics of mixed Indian origin. Ten to fifteen per cent of white adults in developed countries harbour gallstones. Frequency is further reduced in Black Americans, East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In developed countries, cholesterol gallstones predominate; 15% are black pigment. East Asians develop brown pigment stones in bile ducts, associated with biliary infection or parasites, or in intrahepatic ducts (hepatolithiasis). Certain risk factors for gallstones are immutable: female gender, increasing age and ethnicity/family (genetic traits). Others are modifiable: obesity, the metabolic syndrome, rapid weight loss, certain diseases (cirrhosis, Crohn's disease) and gallbladder stasis (from spinal cord injury or drugs like somatostatin). The only established dietary risk is a high caloric intake. Protective factors include diets containing fibre, vegetable protein, nuts, calcium, vitamin C, coffee and alcohol, plus physical activity.