The metabolic consequences of slow colonic transit

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Aug;94(8):2010-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01271.x.


Intestinal transit has a substantial influence on the enterohepatic circulation of bile acids and steroid hormones, on colonic pH, and on short chain fatty acid concentrations in the distal colon. Slow transit is likely to favor disease processes that are related to over-efficient enterohepatic recirculation and to lack of short chain fatty acid in the distal colon. These include gallstones, large bowel cancer, and possibly breast cancer. The best-documented influence of slow colonic transit is on bile acid metabolism. Slowing colonic transit increases deoxycholate and raises cholesterol saturation of bile, making gallstone formation more likely. In this review, we also examine the evidence that slow colonic transit may be important in the etiology of large bowel and breast cancer. There is a lack of data pertaining to the relationship between colonic transit and diseases such as colon and breast cancer. Should slow colonic transit prove to be a significant factor in the etiology of such diseases, then the health of the population might benefit from dietary and lifestyle changes that speed up intestinal transit.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Cholelithiasis / physiopathology
  • Colon / physiopathology
  • Colonic Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Enterohepatic Circulation / physiology
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile