The concentrations of essential metal cations in gastric juice, collected at endoscopy from 17 normal patients and 11 with peptic ulcer disease, were determined by inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometry. Mean fasting levels in normal gastric juice were as follows: sodium 47.7 mM, potassium 14.6 mM, calcium 0.8 mM, magnesium 0.36 mM, zinc 13 microM, and copper 1.2 microM: these did not differ significantly in health or disease. Because samples were contaminated with iron, the concentration of this metal was only estimated (ca 3.5 microM in normal subjects), and this secretion could represent a significant proportion of the daily loss of endogenous iron. The pH of gastric juice predicted the concentrations of magnesium and calcium, but not copper or zinc, in the juice. It is concluded that previously reported values for trace metals in gastric juice have been incorrect and that the very low amounts secreted in the gastric juice will not interfere with the absorption of other trace metals from the diet. In contrast, the concentrations of macroelements in gastric juice may be sufficient to stimulate the absorption of trace metals from the gut.
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