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Am J Physiol. 1996 Jul;271(1 Pt 1):G62-7.

Fat absorption is not complete by midgut but is dependent on load of fat.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Research Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles 90048-1869, USA.


Since the intubation study of B. Borgstrom, A. Dahlqvist, and G. Lundh (J. Clin. Invest. 36: 1521-1536, 1957) in humans, the completion of fat absorption within the proximal small intestine has been widely accepted. Based on this report, it has been assumed that the distal small intestine is exposed to fat only in the setting of pathology. This concept may be flawed, since completeness of fat absorption was calculated from the recovery of a water-soluble marker but the aqueous phase is now known to move independently from fat. To reexamine the question of whether fat absorption is complete by midgut, we measured the recovery of a fat-specific marker, 99mTc-thiocyanate, in a canine model equipped with duodenal and midgut fistulas. The fistulous output allowed for the measurement of the amount of fat entering the small intestine and the amount of fat entering the distal one-half of the small intestine. Emulsion meals containing 15 or 60 g of corn oil were tested. The importance of fat exposure of the distal one-half of the small intestine was further confirmed by comparing the fistulous fat recovery under two different patterns of exposure [allowing (ALL) or denying (150 cm) access to the distal small intestine]. We found that fat recovery depended on 1) the dose of fat (15 vs. 60 g; P < 0.0005), 2) the pattern of exposure (150 cm vs. ALL; P < 0.01), and 3) the fistulous position (duodenal vs. midgut; P < 0.005). Specifically, under a 150-cm exposure pattern, whereas 8.8 +/- 1.8 g (means +/- SE) of fat emptied into the duodenum after the 15-g fat meal, 32.6 +/- 3.2 g emptied after the 60-g fat meal. Correspondingly, although 3.5 +/- 1.5 g of fat were recoverable from the midgut fistulous output after the 15-g meal, a much larger amount, 17.1 +/- 5.6 g of fat, was recoverable and therefore not absorbed by the proximal one-half of the small intestine after the 60-g meal. The amount of fat recovery at each fistula was reduced when chyme was allowed access to the whole gut (by triggering fat-induced ileal brake). We conclude that the intestinal length required for fat absorption depends on the load of fat in the meal so that, even after usual meals, absorption of fat is not complete by midgut.

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