We have investigated whether jejunal hyperacidity leads to bile acid precipitation and thus limits lipid solubilisation in patients with pancreatic steatorrhoea. Jejunal contents from 12 adults with steatorrhoea due to cystic fibrosis were aspirated for three hours after a liquid test meal, and pooled according to their pH. Thirty eight per cent of the total aspirate was collected at pH less than 5 in cystic fibrosis, compared with 18% in healthy controls (p less than 0.05). Forty six per cent of the bile acids were precipitated at pH less than 5, compared with 15% at pH greater than 6 (p less than 0.01), leading to reduced aqueous phase bile acid concentration at low pH (4.7 mmol/l at pH less than 5 vs 12.5 mmol/l at pH greater than 6, p less than 0.01). Aqueous phase lipid concentrations were reduced at low pH (5.6 mmol/l at pH less than 5 vs 10.2 mmol/l at pH greater than 6, p less than 0.01). Lipolysis and total fatty acid concentrations were greatly reduced and did not vary with pH. We therefore conclude that jejunal hyperacidity leads to bile acid precipitation in pancreatic steatorrhoea due to cystic fibrosis, and imposes a further limitation on lipid solubilisation over that of lipase deficiency.
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