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Papers of the Week

2019 Sep

Eur J Pediatr



Fructose malabsorption in asymptomatic children and in patients with functional chronic abdominal pain: a prospective comparative study.


Martínez-Azcona O, Moreno-Álvarez A, Seoane-Pillado T, Niño-Grueiro I, Ramiro-Comesaña A, Menéndez-Riera M, Pérez-Domínguez M, Solar-Boga A, Leis-Trabazo R
Eur J Pediatr. 2019 Sep; 178(9):1395-1403.
PMID: 31325029.


The objective of this prospective cohort study was to compare fructose malabsorption in patients with functional chronic abdominal pain and in healthy children. The sample was divided into two groups: asymptomatic children and pain-predominant functional gastrointestinal disorders according to the Rome IV criteria. All children were tested for fructose malabsorption by a standardized breath hydrogen test. Hydrogen and methane were measured and the test was presumed positive when it exceeded 20 ppm above baseline. If positive, patients were given a low-fructose diet and the response was evaluated. One hundred five children were included (34 healthy children, 71 with functional chronic abdominal pain), with similar demographic characteristics in both groups (35.2% male, age 9.5 ± 2.8 years). Hydrogen levels in breath were tested through a hydrogen test for fructose demonstrating malabsorption in 58.8% of healthy children (95%CI 40.8%-76.8%) and in 40.8% of children with chronic abdominal pain (95%CI 28.7%-53.0%), removing those who had bacterial overgrowth. Twenty-one of 31 patients with symptoms and a positive test (72.4%) reported an improvement on a low-fructose diet.Conclusion: Fructose malabsorption is more common in asymptomatic children than in patients with chronic abdominal pain. Better standardized test conditions are necessary to improve accuracy of diagnosis before using this test in clinical practice. What is Known: • Although fructose malabsorption is believed to be related with chronic abdominal pain, high-quality evidence is lacking. • Concerns have raised regarding the use of breath hydrogen test for fructose malabsorption in children with chronic abdominal pain. What is New: • Fructose malabsorption is not more common in children with pain-predominant functional gastrointestinal disorders than in asymptomatic children. • Improvement in symptoms with low-fructose diet may indicate that, although patients with pain-predominant functional gastrointestinal disorders did not have a higher percentage of malabsorption, they had greater fructose intolerance.