Background: Fructose malabsorption is characterized by the inability to absorb fructose efficiently. As a consequence fructose reaches the colon where it is broken down by bacteria to short fatty acids, CO2 and H2. Bloating, cramps, osmotic diarrhea and other symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are the consequences and can be seen in about 50% of fructose malabsorbers. We have previously shown that fructose malabsorption is associated with early signs of mental depression and low serum tryptophan concentrations. It was therefore of interest whether a fructose-reduced diet could not only improve gastrointestinal complaints but also depressive signs seen in fructose malabsorbers.
Methods: Fifty-three adults (12 males, 41 females), who were identified as fructose malabsorbers according to their breath-H2 concentrations, filled out a Beck's depression inventory-questionnaire, and a questionnaire with arbitrary scales for measurement of meteorism, stool frequency and quality of life for a 4-week period before dietary intervention and 4 weeks after dietary change as for fructose- and sorbitol-reduced diet.
Results: Depression scores were reduced by 65.2% after 4 weeks of diet (P < 0.0001), and there was a significant reduction of meteorism (P < 0.0001) and stool frequency (P < 0.01). Improvement of signs of depression and of meteorism was more pronounced in females than in males.
Conclusion: Fructose- and sorbitol-reduced diet in subjects with fructose malabsorption does not only reduce gastrointestinal symptoms but also improves mood and early signs of depression.