Fecal bacterial activity in symptomatic carbohydrate malabsorption: effect on the fecal short-chain fatty acid ratio.Z Gastroenterol. 2000 Aug; 38(8):623-6.ZG
It is still not clear why only some patients with carbohydrate malabsorption experience symptoms. In a previous study on healthy fructose malabsorbers an increased degradation of fructose in anaerobic fecal cultures from symptomatic malabsorbers was found, indicating increased bacterial activity. In the present study, the same investigation was repeated in patients with nonspecific abdominal complaints and fructose malabsorption. Moreover fecal short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), products of colonic bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates were measured.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
A standard quantity of fructose (500 mg) was added to anaerobic fecal cultures from 25 patients (nine men, 16 women; median of age 53 years, range 36-69 years). The fructose degradation rate was assessed using photometry, and interpreted as representing bacterial activity in the colon. In 14 of the patients, SCFA levels were also measured using chromatography on a capillary column.
10 of the 25 patients had a history of symptoms after ingesting fructose-containing foods, and also showed symptoms during the test; 6 patients had symptoms either in their history or during the test; and the remaining 9 were free of symptoms. There were no differences in the H2 increase. The fructose degradation rate was higher in symptomatic malabsorbers (255 mg vs. 217 mg), but the difference was not significant. However, there was a strong inverse correlation between this bacterial activity and the acetate level, with r = -0.822 (P = 0.000) and r = -0.868 (P = 0.000) in the rank correlation. The correlation for propionate was r = 0.479 (P = 0.083), and that for butyrate was r = 0.599 (P = 0.024).
This study failed to confirm a significant correlation between fecal bacterial activity and the occurrence of symptoms in patients with fructose malabsorption. However, the interesting correlation with the SCFA raises questions regarding possible connections between colonic bacteria, carbohydrate malabsorption, and the beneficial effect of this pattern of SCFA in several colonic diseases.