Activated charcoal: In vivo and in vitro studies of effect on gas formation

Timothy Potter, Carol Ellis, Michael Levitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


It has been reported that activated charcoal reduces intestinal gas production after ingestion of beans as evidenced by decreased breath hydrogen excretion and decreased passage of flatus. In the present study we assessed the ability of activated charcoal to reduce intestinal gas production by in vitro and in vivo methods. In vitro studies were performed using human fecal homogenates incubated with or without additional carbohydrate. In all studies hydrogen and carbon dioxide production and consumption occurred at similar rates in the charcoal-treated homogenate as compared with the untreated control. The influence of activated charcoal on gas production, in vivo, was studied by double-blind assessment of breath hydrogen excretion and flatus excretion after ingestion of a baked bean meal. No significant difference was observed in breath hydrogen concentration or number of passages of flatus in subjects who ingested 16 capsules of activated charcoal (4 g) as opposed to the placebo. We conclude that activated charcoal does not influence gas formation in vitro or in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-624
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1985
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received July 24, 1984. Accepted September 3, 1984. Address requests for reprints to: Michael D. Levitt, M.D., ACOS for Researchil51, Veterans Administration Medical Center, 54th Street and 48th Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55417. This study was supported by grants from the Veterans Administration and National Institutes of Health (#5 R01 AM13309-15) and Requa Manufacturing Co., Inc., Greenwich, Corm. 0 1985 by the American Gastroenterological Association 0016-5085/85/$3.30


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