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Am J Physiol. 1996 Jul;271(1 Pt 1):G172-83.

Physicochemical characteristics of emulsions during fat digestion in human stomach and duodenum.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Unité 130, Marseille, France.


Seven fasting subjects were fitted with nasogastric and nasoduodenal tubes and received intragastrically a coarsely emulsified test meal. Gastric and duodenal aspirates were collected after 1, 2, 3, and 4 h. In the duodenum, most lipids (> 90%) were present as emulsified droplets 1-100 microns in size. Large droplets and unemulsified material present in the test meal (> 100 micron) disappeared, whereas smaller droplets (1-50 microns) were generated after 1 h of digestion. Thus the median lipid droplet diameter significantly decreased (19.6 vs. 56.5 microns in the test meal) and the droplet surface area significantly increased (1.58 vs. 0.70 micron2/g fat). Intermediate droplet diameters were 34.3, 46.3, and 27.6 microns after 2, 3, and 4 h, respectively. In the stomach, a comparable emulsion particle size pattern was observed, with median droplet diameters of 17.2, 37.9, 52.4, and 41.6 microns after 1, 2, 3, and 4 h, respectively. However, the extent of triglyceride hydrolysis was much lower in the stomach (6-16%) than in the duodenum (42-45%), where small droplets were enriched in lipolytic products, cholesterol, and phospholipids. The present findings show for the first time that most dietary lipids are present in the human duodenum as emulsified droplets 1-50 microns in size and that no further marked emulsification of dietary fat occurs in the duodenum compared with the stomach.

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