Plasma enteroglucagon was measured before and during three hours after a standard meal in 21 untreated adult patients with suspected coeliac disease who all had villous atrophy of the small intestinal mucosa and malabsorption, and in nine control subjects. In 11 of these patients the diagnosis of coeliac disease was confirmed and 10 were again investigated on a gluten free diet. The coeliac patients had higher basal (37 +/- 9 pmol/l, mean +/- SE, p less than 0.05) and postprandial (70 +/- 9 pmol/l, p less than 0.005) mean plasma enteroglucagon concentrations than the control subjects (basal 14 +/- 4 pmol/l, postprandial 25 +/- 5 pmol/l). The 10 coeliac patients on gluten free diet for five to 20 months had a basal mean plasma enteroglucagon concentration not significantly lower than before treatment (25 +/- 5 pmol/l) but significantly lower postprandial enteroglucagon concentrations than before treatment (40 +/- 7 pmol/l, p less than 0.025). Postprandial plasma enteroglucagon concentration after 90 minutes in untreated patients correlated positively to the faecal fat excretion (r = 0.58, p less than 0.02). It correlated negatively to the urinary five hour D-xylose excretion after an oral load of 165 mmol D-xylose (r = -0.71, p less than 0.01). Thus, the postprandial plasma enteroglucagon concentrations in untreated coeliac disease were related to the degree of malabsorption and they normalised during treatment with a gluten free diet.
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