BACKGROUND: Meals disrupt the interdigestive pattern of small bowel motor activity and convert it into the postprandial pattern. Previous studies have shown that duration of postprandial motor activity depends on the caloric value of a meal, but results from two recent human studies suggested that there is a caloric ceiling, above which an additional increase in the caloric load fails to prolong the postprandial period further. AIM: To investigate the hypothesis of a caloric ceiling by studying daytime motor activity of the human small bowel in response to five solid meals, covering a wide range of calories. METHODS: Eight healthy male volunteers underwent five separate, ambulatory small bowel manometry studies and had a total of 80 meals. For lunch, volunteers ate between one and five portions of a solid meal (220, 440, 660, 880, or 1100 kcal). Ten hours later and 30 minutes before they went to bed, they ate either two or four portions of the same meal (440 kcal or 880 kcal). Recordings were analysed visually for phase III of the migrating motor complex and a validated computer program calculated incidence and amplitude of contractions. RESULTS: Apart from two versus three portions (440 kcal v 660 kcal), postprandial motor activity was significantly prolonged by each 220 kcal increase in the caloric load of the lunch (168 (SEM 14), 305 (22), 298 (23), 368 (36), and 398 (38) min). Mean incidence of contractions was significantly different only between the two extremes tested: 220 kcal and 1100 kcal (2.9 (0.3) v 4.5 (0.6) min-1). Amplitude of contractions did not depend on meal size. Daytime and night time postprandial activity were not significantly different. This was true for duration of fed activity, as well as mean incidence and amplitude of contractions during the postprandial period. CONCLUSION: Caloric value of a meal regulates duration of the fed activity in the human small bowel over a wide range of calories, and-for caloric loads up to 1100 kcal-there is no maximum duration of postprandial motor activity. Furthermore the postprandial small bowel motor activity is very similar between daytime and night time.
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