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Coincidental Malabsorption of Lactose, Fructose, and Sorbitol Ingested at Low Doses Is Not Common in Normal Adults


Normal subjects may incompletely absorb either lactose, fructose, or sorbitol and may therefore have abdominal symptoms. The frequency of coincidental malabsorption of these sugars is not known. This is clinically important, since we often ingest them during the same day and malabsorption may cause abdominal symptoms. To shed light on this issue we studied 32 normal subjects. Volunteers drank in random order the following solutions: 20 g lactulose, 50 g sucrose, 50 and 25 g lactose, 50 and 25 g fructose, 20 and 10 g sorbitol. Semiquantitative carbohydrate malabsorption was estimated with lactulose standards. Frequency of 50-g lactose (69%), 50-g fructose (81%), and 20-g sorbitol (84%) malabsorption was not significantly different (P = 0.3). The estimated median fraction of the ingested high dose malabsorbed was 42, 19, and 68% for lactose, fructose, and sorbitol, respectively. At low challenging doses, 63% of the volunteers absorbed two of three or all three sugars, and 88% were asymptomatic to two or all three sugars. In conclusion, the frequency of coincidental malabsorption of lactose, fructose, and sorbitol and intolerance to these sugars is not common, when normal adults ingest them at low doses.

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Ladas, S.D., Grammenos, I., Tassios, P.S. et al. Coincidental Malabsorption of Lactose, Fructose, and Sorbitol Ingested at Low Doses Is Not Common in Normal Adults. Dig Dis Sci 45, 2357–2362 (2000).

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  • lactose
  • fructose
  • sorbitol
  • carbohydrate absorption
  • malabsorption
  • intolerance