Measurement of gastric emptying rate of solids in children is difficult because the available methods are either invasive or induce a substantial radiation burden. In this study the newly developed 13C octanoic acid breath test was used to examine the gastric emptying rate of solids and milk in healthy children and to compare gastric emptying in children and adults. Fifteen healthy children and three groups of nine healthy adults were studied, using three different test meals labelled with 50 mg of 13C octanoic acid: a low caloric pancake (150 kcal), a high caloric pancake (250 kcal), and 210 ml of milk (134 kcal). Breath samples were taken before and at regular intervals after ingestion of the test meal, and analysed by isotope ratio mass spectrometry. The gastric emptying parameters were derived from the 13CO2 excretion curves by non-linear regression analysis. No significant difference was found between children and adults in the emptying rate of the low caloric solid test meal. In children as well as in adults, increasing the energy content of the solid meal resulted in a significantly slower emptying rate. The milk test meal, however, was emptied at a faster rate in adults and at slower rate in children compared with the low caloric solid test meal. Moreover, the emptying rate of milk in children was significantly slower than in adults. In conclusion, a similar gastric emptying rate of solids but a slower emptying of full cream milk was shown in children of school age compared with adults, using the non-radioactive 13C octanoic acid breath test.
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