Carbohydrate malabsorption syndromes and early signs of mental depression in females

Dig Dis Sci. 2000 Jul;45(7):1255-9. doi: 10.1023/a:1005527230346.


Fructose and lactose malabsorption are characterized by impaired duodenal fructose transport or by the deficiency of mucosal lactase, respectively. As a consequence, the nonabsorbed saccharides reach the colon, where they are broken down by bacteria to short fatty acids, CO2, and H2. Bloating, cramps, osmotic diarrhea, and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are the consequence and can be seen in about 50% of carbohydrate malabsorbers. We have previously shown that fructose as well as lactose malabsorption were associated with signs of mental depression. It was therefore of interest to investigate possible interactions between fructose and lactose malabsorption and their influence on the development of signs of depression. In all, 111 otherwise healthy volunteers (81 females and 30 males) with gastrointestinal complaints were analyzed by measuring breath H2 concentrations after an oral dose of 50 g lactose and of 50 g fructose one week apart. They were classified as normals, isolated fructose malabsorbers, isolated lactose malabsorbers, and combined fructose/lactose malabsorbers. All patients filled out a Beck's depression inventory-questionnaire. Twenty-five individuals (22.5%) were neither fructose nor lactose malabsorbers (group 1), 69 (62.2%) were only fructose malabsorbers (group 2), 4 (3.6%) were only lactose malabsorbers (group 3), and 13 (11.7%) presented with fructose and lactose malabsorption together (group 4). Isolated fructose malabsorption and combined fructose/lactose malabsorption was significantly associated with a higher Beck's depression score. Further analysis of the data show that this association was strong in females (P < 0.01), but there was no such association between carbohydrate malabsorption and early signs of depression in males. In conclusion, the data confirm that fructose malabsorption may play a role in the development of mental depression in females and additional lactose malabsorption seems to further increase the risk for development of mental depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fructose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lactose / metabolism
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Fructose
  • Lactose