Effects of various food ingredients on gall bladder emptying

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;67(11):1182-7. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.168. Epub 2013 Sep 18.


Background/objectives: The emptying of the gall bladder in response to feeding is pivotal for the digestion of fat, but the role of various food ingredients in contracting the gall bladder postprandially is not well understood. We hypothesized that different food ingredients, when consumed, will have a different effect on stimulating gall bladder emptying. To investigate this we designed two randomized, investigator-blind, cross-over studies in healthy subjects using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure gall bladder volumes serially and non-invasively.

Subjects/methods: Study 1: exploratory study evaluating the effects of 10 different food ingredients on gall bladder emptying in eight healthy subjects. The choice of ingredients varied from common items like coffee, tea and milk to actives like curcumin and potato protease inhibitor. Study 2: mechanistic study investigating the cholecystokinin (CCK) dose response to the best performer ingredient from Study 1 in 21 healthy subjects four ways.

Results: The largest gall bladder volume change in Study 1 was observed with fat, which therefore became the dose-response ingredient in Study 2, where the maximum % gall bladder volume change correlated well with CCK.

Conclusions: These serial test-retest studies showed that the fasted gall bladder volume varied remarkably between individuals and that individual day-to-day variability had wide coefficients of variation. Improved knowledge of how to stimulate bile release using food ingredients will be useful to improve in vitro-in vivo correlation of bioavailability testing of hydrophobic drugs. It could improve performance of cholesterol-lowering plant stanol and sterol products and possibly aid understanding of some cholesterol gallstone disease.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cholecystokinin / metabolism*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Food
  • Gallbladder / drug effects*
  • Gallbladder / physiology
  • Gallbladder Emptying / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postprandial Period
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Fats
  • Cholecystokinin