Use of respiratory hydrogen (H2) excretion to detect carbohydrate malabsorption

Michael D. Levitt, Robert M. Donaldson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

237 Scopus citations


A technique in which an increase in the rate of breath H2 excretion is used to detect carbohydrate malabsorption was tested. Ingestion of glucose, a completely absorbed sugar, never resulted in an increase in breath H2 in normal subjects. In contrast, ingestion of xylose, an incompletely absorbed sugar, always yielded an increase in breath H2. Assessment of lactose absorption with the use of breath H2 measurements agreed closely with the results of standard lactose tolerance tests. This technique has advantages over the tolerance test in that: (1) it reflects the quantity of sugar that is not absorbed and, thus, is not influenced by gastric emptying rate or intermediary glucose metabolism, and (2) it is sufficiently sensitive to detect malabsorption of as little as 5 to 10 Gm. of carbohydrate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-945
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of laboratory and clinical medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1970


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