Intestinal trehalase activity in a UK population: establishing a normal range and the effect of disease

Br J Nutr. 2000 Mar;83(3):241-5. doi: 10.1017/s0007114500000313.


Trehalose is a disaccharide, the main dietary source being mushrooms. It has been approved as an additive in the preparation of dried food. Isolated intestinal trehalase deficiency is found in 8% of Greenlanders, but is rare elsewhere. The normal range of trehalase activity and the incidence of isolated trehalase deficiency in the UK have not been reported. Patients (n 400) were investigated for suspected malabsorption. Endoscopic distal duodenal biopsies were taken for histological assessment and maltase, sucrase, lactase and trehalase estimation. Disaccharidase activities were determined by Dahlqvist's technique (Dahlqvist, 1968). Most patients (n 369) had normal duodenal histology. In these, square root transformation of trehalase activity produced a normal distribution. The normal range (mean +/- 2 SD) was 4.79-37.12 U/g protein. One patient had an isolated borderline trehalase deficiency. The thirty-one patients with villous atrophy had significantly reduced disaccharidase activities. With ingestion of a gluten-free diet, maltase, sucrase and trehalase activities recovered to normal in most patients, whereas lactase activity did not. The normal range and very low incidence of isolated enzyme deficiency is comparable with that described in populations from the USA and mainland Europe. Activity is significantly reduced in untreated coeliac disease and recovers with treatment with a gluten-free diet. There is no place for routine determination of trehalase activity in the UK population and there should be no concern over the introduction of trehalose-containing dried foods.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Celiac Disease / enzymology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / enzymology*
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Trehalase / deficiency*
  • Trehalase / metabolism
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Trehalase