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J Lab Clin Med. 1996 Mar;127(3):303-9.

Evaluation of 13CO2 breath tests for the detection of fructose malabsorption.

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Department of Pediatrics, Bosch Medicentrum, 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.


Breath hydrogen (H2) studies have made clear that small intestinal absorption of fructose is limited, especially in toddlers. Malabsorption of fructose may be a cause of recurrent abdominal pain and chronic nonspecific diarrhea (toddler's diarrhea). Fructose absorption is facilitated by equimolar doses of glucose and, as we have found, amino acids (especially L-alanine); the mechanism underlying this effect remains unclear. To study fructose absorption in a more direct way, we combined breath H2 studies with breath 13CO2 studies. Gastric emptying was studied by using L-glycine-1-13C in 4 children from 12.1 to 16.0 years of age. After 25 gm of fructose and 27.5 gm of glucose, when given together, gastric emptying was significantly (p<0.05) slower than with either sugar alone. In a second series of experiments, 5 children from 12.0 to 15.9 years of age were tested with 25 gm of fructose, alone and with equimolar doses of glucose and L-alanine, and 4 younger children from 3.1 to 6.1 years of age were tested with 2 gm/kg (max 37.5 gm) fructose, alone or with an equimolar dose of L-alanine. All fructose solutions were enriched with 15 mg of D-fructose-13C-6. In all 9 children, fructose was malabsorbed as judged by breath H2 increases > or = 20 ppm, and the addition of glucose or L-alanine resulted in significantly lower breath H2 increases (p < or = 0.005 for glucose, p < or = 0.001 for alanine). In contrast, the addition of alanine or glucose did not change the pattern of breath 13CO2 excretion in the 5 older children, whereas in the 4 younger children (with relatively higher doses), L-alanine addition resulted in significantly lower increases in breath 13CO2. In the latter group, for each time point, breath H2 and 13CO2 concentrations after fructose were compared with those after fructose plus L-alanine; in 20 out of 24 points, both H2 and 13CO2 were higher after fructose. These results suggest that 13CO2 not only originated from the oxidation of absorbed substrate but also, at least in part, from colonic bacterial metabolism. For the detection of [correction of or] fructose malabsorption--as opposed to, for instance, lactose--the 13CO2 breath test seems to be of limited value.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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