Maldigestion and Malabsorption of Dietary Lipid During Severe Childhood Malnutrition

Authors: Murphy, J.L., Badaloo, V.A., Chambers, B., Forrester, T.E., Wootton, S.A. and Jackson, A.A.

Journal: Archives of Disease in Childhood

Volume: 87

Pages: 522-525

ISSN: 0003-9888

DOI: 10.1136/adc.87.6.522


Background: Diets rich in lipid are used to provide energy density in treating children with severe malnutrition, but the extent to which their digestion and absorption can cope with the load effectively is uncertain.

Aim: To determine the extent of impaired digestion or absorption, in three groups of eight malnourished children (aged 5–23 months) using isotopic probes of the predominant fatty acids in coconut and corn oil used to fortify the diet.

Methods: Each child received oral doses of one of three 13C labelled triglycerides (trilaurin, triolein, or trilinolein). The recovery of 13C label in stool either as triglyceride (TAG) or fatty acid (FA), was used to assess digestion and absorption. In a separate test, the recovery of label in stool following an oral dose of [13C]-glycocholate was measured to assess bile salt malabsorption.

Results: The median recovery of label in stool was 9% (range 1–29%) of administered dose. Following treatment there was a reduction in stool 13C excretion for the labelled TAG (<1%). In half the subjects, label was recovered as TAG in stool (median 0.6%, range 0–44%). Most label in stool was recovered as FA (median 30%, range 0–100%). Following [13C]-glycocholate, label was recovered in excess in about one third of studies.

Conclusion: Abnormalities in the gastrointestinal handling of lipid were observed in over 50% of children with severe malnutrition, reflecting problems in absorption, although impaired solubilisation or hydrolysis could also be contributory factors. The underlying lesion improves as treatment progresses, leading to concomitant improvement in function.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Jane Murphy