The presence of food within the small intestinal lumen promotes mucosal cell proliferation. To define the trophic role of triglycerides, three groups of eight female Wistar rats were isocalorically fed for four weeks with either Vivonex, or Vivonex with 50% calorie substitution with an essential fatty acid mixture, or Vivonex with 50% calorie substitution with a saturated fatty acid mixture. Although Vivonex caused greater body weight gain, both essential fatty acids and saturated fatty acids increased small intestinal weight, mucosal weight, protein and DNA overall, and in each of three intestinal segments (proximal, middle and distal), compared with Vivonex. Mucosal indices were similar for essential fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. These results show that triglycerides, regardless of essential fatty acid content, are trophic to the rat small intestinal mucosa.
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