The effects of urodeoxycholic acid on ileal absorption of bile acids and on serum bile acid and lipoprotein concentrations were studied. Eight healthy subjects were investigated. The gamma emitting bile acid analogue, SeHCAT, was given orally and its fractional catabolic rate and seven day retention were assessed by repeated external counting over the upper abdomen during the next seven days. Ursodeoxycholic acid was then given orally at a dose of 15 mg/kg/day for three weeks and the study was repeated during treatment. The fractional catabolic rate increased by 64% (mean (SD), 0.333 (0.159) v 0.203 (0.061)/day; p less than 0.05) and seven day retention decreased by 44% (15(10) v 27(10)%, p less than 0.001), indicating bile acid malabsorption. Total serum cholesterol fell from 5.79 (1.22) to 5.50 (1.18) mmol/l (p = 0.05), while serum ursodeoxycholic acid increased 22 fold (7.87 (2.67) v 0.34 (0.24) mumol/l, p less than 0.001). Five of the subjects continued taking 30 mg/kg/day of ursodeoxycholic acid for one week and showed an increase in fractional catabolic rate of 81% (0.300 (0.091) v 0.166 (0.037)/day; p less than 0.05) and a fall in seven day retention of 50% (16 (12) v 32 (8)%, p less than 0.01). There were significant reductions in total cholesterol (5.36 (1.71) v 6.08 (1.47) mmol/l; p less than 0.05) and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (3.70 (1.33) v 4.58 (1.16) mmol/l; p less than 0.05). The results support the concept tht ursodeoxycholic acid treatment interferes with the absorption of endogenous bile acids, and emphasise the beneficial effects of this treatment of lipoprotein concentrations in man.
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