The magnitude of complex carbohydrate malabsorption in exocrine pancreatic insufficiency has not been well quantified in the past. The quantity of carbohydrate malabsorbed after a rice starch (100 g) meal in 20 patients with chronic pancreatitis (n = 10) or pancreatic cancer (n = 10) was therefore estimated. Patients had a three day stool fat collection (80 g/24 hour fat intake), a lactulose (20 g), and a rice flour (100 g) breath hydrogen test. Normal controls (n = 29) had a postprandial H2 increase < or = 14 ppm and malabsorbed (mean (SEM)) 1.12 (0.44) (range 0-11.10) g of the 100 g of carbohydrate ingested. Patients malabsorbed significantly more carbohydrate (11.36 (2.23) (range 8.90-32.60) g, F1.47 = 29.92, p < 0.001). The number of patients with fat (> 7 g, n = 8) or carbohydrate (increase in H2 > or = 20 ppm, n = 10) malabsorption was not different (chi 2 = 0.10, p = 0.75). There was a significant correlation between faecal fat and amount of malabsorbed carbohydrate (r = 0.60, F1.17 = 9.70, p = 0.006) and faecal fat and stool wet weight (r = 0.57, F1.18 = 8.67, p < 0.009), but not between stool wet weight and amount of malabsorbed carbohydrate (r = 0.28, F1.17 = 1.45, p = 0.25). Although patients with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency malabsorb 10%-30% of the ingested complex carbohydrate, the main determinant of stool wet weight could be faecal fat.
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