The absorption of 14C triolein in a standard fat meal was measured in 60 controls and 66 patients with gastrointestinal disorders by 14CO2 breath sampling. A reference range based upon cumulative eight hour values of the controls was independent of height, weight, and sex. The range was of log normal distribution and declined with age (p less than 0.05). Acceptable 'within-day' and 'between-day' reproducibility was found. All patients tested with untreated coeliac disease, pancreatic insufficiency and most with symptomatic small intestinal Crohn's disease had subnormal values. Twenty per cent of those with irritable bowel syndrome had subnormal values. Patients with ulcerative colitis were all normal. The reagents used and the breath samples after collection were stable. In our experience the 14C triolein test is simple, inexpensive, and helpful in the detection of diseases associated with fat malabsorption. It is of value in monitoring the response to treatment of individual patients with coeliac disease.
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