In order to assess the relationship between methane (CH4) producing status and the breath excretion of hydrogen (H2) in healthy subjects, breath CH4 and H2 were simultaneously measured for 14 hours after oral ingestion of 10 g lactulose in 65 young volunteers. Forty were breath CH4 producers and 25 were not. Statistically significant differences were observed between both groups, with lower values for CH4 producers recorded for the following parameters: fasting basal value of breath H2 (8.1 (4.9) v 5.2 (3.7) ppm, p less than 0.05), mouth-to-caecum transit time (68 (24) v 111 (52) min, p less than 0.005), and breath H2 production measured as area under the curve 13.1 (6.9) v 8.8 (3.8) 10(3) ppm/min, p less than 0.02). There was no significant correlation between individual production of breath H2 and CH4. These results indicate that the response to lactulose depends on breath CH4 producing status. In clinical practice, defining normal values of mouth-to-caecum transit time without knowledge of breath CH4 producing status may lead to misinterpretation of the H2 breath test.
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