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Low serum levels of short-chain fatty acids after lactulose ingestion may indicate impaired colonic fermentation in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

Authors Undseth R, Jakobsdottir G, Nyman M, Berstad A, Valeur J

Received 9 August 2015

Accepted for publication 12 October 2015

Published 27 November 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 303—308


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Andreas M Kaiser

Ragnhild Undseth,1 Greta Jakobsdottir,2 Margareta Nyman,2 Arnold Berstad,3 Jørgen Valeur3

1Department of Radiology, Lovisenberg Diaconal Hospital, Oslo, Norway; 2Food for Health Science Centre, Lund University, Lund, Sweden; 3Unger-Vetlesen Institute, Lovisenberg Diaconal Hospital, Oslo, Norway

Background: Ingestion of low-digestible carbohydrates triggers symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). These carbohydrates become substrates for microbial fermentation in the colon, yielding short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that are readily absorbed. Aiming to compare colonic fermentation in patients with IBS and healthy controls, we analyzed the concentrations of SCFA in serum at fasting and 90 minutes following ingestion of an unabsorbable, but fermentable carbohydrate, lactulose.
Methods: Patients with IBS according to Rome III criteria (n=22) and healthy controls (n=20) ingested 10 g lactulose dissolved in water. Symptoms were graded by questionnaires and SCFA were analyzed using hollow fiber-supported liquid membrane extraction coupled with gas chromatography.
Results: Lactulose induced more symptoms in patients with IBS than in healthy controls (P=0.0001). Fasting serum levels of SCFA did not differ between patients with IBS and controls. However, the postprandial levels of total SCFA (P=0.0002), acetic acid (P=0.005), propionic acid (P=0.0001), and butyric acid (P=0.01) were significantly lower in patients with IBS compared with healthy controls. There was no correlation between the levels of serum SCFA and symptom severity.
Conclusion: Low-serum levels of SCFA after lactulose ingestion may indicate impaired colonic fermentation in patients with IBS. Conceivably, this disturbance is related to symptom generation, but the mechanism is not clear.

Keywords: fermentation, FODMAP, irritable bowel syndrome, microbiota, short-chain fatty acids

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