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Fructose, trehalose and sorbitol malabsorption.

  • Montalto, M
  • Gallo, A
  • Ojetti, V
  • Gasbarrini, A
Published Article
European review for medical and pharmacological sciences
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
17 Suppl 2
PMID: 24443064


Carbohydrate malabsorption is a frequent clinical condition, often associated with abdominal symptoms. Although lactose represents the most commonly malabsorbed sugar, also other carbohydrates, such as fructose, trehalose and sorbitol may be incorrectly absorbed in the small intestine. Fructose malabsorption seems more common in patients with functional bowel disease, even if randomized and controlled studies on these topic were few and on small samples. Interpretation of breath hydrogen testing is difficult. In particular, neither studies comparing this test with a gold standard, nor validated doses and concentrations to be used, are available. Trehalose malabsorption due to trehalase deficiency represents a very rare condition and available studies do not support its relevance in clinical practice. Sorbitol absorption is dose and concentration related, and depends on the entity of intestinal absorption surface. Nevertheless, the finding of its malabsorption is not expression of a specific cause of intestinal bowel damage. From available data, it is not possible to draw definite conclusions about clinical relevance of fructose, trehalose and sorbitol malabsorption, as well as, about diagnostic accuracy of commonly used tests to detect all these conditions. On the other hand, in patients who refer abdominal discomfort after ingestion of different carbohydrate-containing foods, a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, should be promptly considered. This is because the large amount of intestinal bacteria may unspecifically ferment sugars, causing an abnormal H2 production and consequently a misleading diagnosis of sugar malabsorption.


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