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Meta-Analysis of the Composition of Human Intestinal Gases



Understanding intestinal gases volume and composition may contribute to diagnosing digestive diseases and the microbiome's status. This meta-analysis aimed to define the composition of human intestinal gases and changes associated with diet.


Studies were identified by systematic research of the MEDLINE(Ovid), Scopus, and Cochrane databases. Studies that measured the concentration of intestinal gases in healthy adult humans were retrieved. The JBI critical appraisal tool was used to evaluate the risk of bias. The primary outcomes analysed were the concentration of the most prevalent colonic gases. Participants were divided into groups according to dietary fibre content.


Eleven studies were included. The following gases were identified in similar concentrations across all studies (mean ± standard deviation): nitrogen (65.1 ± 20.89%), oxygen (2.3 ± 0.98%), carbon dioxide (9.9 ± 1.6%), hydrogen (2.9 ± 0.7%), and methane (14.4 ± 3.7%). Differences according to the dietary fibre were observed, with a positive correlation between fibre and volume of gas produced, particularly in fermented gases (carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane).


The meta-analysis has found defined concentrations of the five most common gases present in human colonic gas. Limitations included heterogenic methodologies, a low number of participants, and few recent studies. These findings may be helpful in diagnostic applications where colonic gas volume and composition are crucial factors, including functional disorders, microbiome analyses, and bowel perforation diagnostics.

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CO2 :

Carbon dioxide

CH4 :



Gas chromatography

H2 :



Hydrogen sulphide


Irritable bowel syndrome

N2 :


O2 :



Parts per million


Sulphate-reducing bacteria


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Greg O’Grady.

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Template data collection forms, data extracted from included studies, data used for analyses, and analytic code are available upon request.

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See Tables 5 and 6.

Table 5 JBI critical appraisal for analytical cross-sectional studies
Table 6 JBI critical appraisal for quasi-experimental (nonrandomised experimental) studies

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Modesto, A., Cameron, NR., Varghese, C. et al. Meta-Analysis of the Composition of Human Intestinal Gases. Dig Dis Sci (2021).

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  • Intestinal gas
  • Biomarker
  • Flatus composition
  • Diet