To investigate the effects of age and gender on gastric, small intestinal and colonic mean transit times, a study was conducted in 32 healthy volunteers: eight young women (22-30 years), eight young men (20-28 years), eight middle-aged women (43-51 years) and eight middle-aged men (38-53 years). After ingestion of a meal containing 111Indium-labelled water and 99mTechnetium-labelled omelette imaging of the abdomen was performed at intervals of 30 min until all radioactivity was located in the colon and henceforth at intervals of 24 h until all radioactivity had cleared from the colon. Gastric, small intestinal and colonic mean transit times were calculated. The gastric, small intestinal and colonic mean transit times were significantly longer in women. Ageing was shown to accelerate the gastric and small intestinal transit significantly. In the group of men the colonic mean transit time was unaffected by age, but middle-aged women had a significantly slower colonic transit than young women. We therefore conclude that both age and gender have to be considered when reference values for gastric, small intestinal and colonic mean transit times have to be established.