Supplementation of ursodeoxycholic acid improves fat digestion and absorption in cystic fibrosis patients with mild liver involvement

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 Jun;28(6):645-9. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000000593.


Background: Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) supplementation is recommended for cystic fibrosis (CF) patients with associated liver disease. However, its effect on fat digestion and absorption is not known.

Materials and methods: In 23 patients with mild liver involvement, a C-mixed triglyceride breath test was performed on UDCA supplementation (with and without pancreatic enzymes - standard and increased dose) and after 1 month of UDCA withdrawal. Cumulative percentage dose recovery [CPDR; median (interquartile range)] has been considered to reflect lipid digestion and absorption.

Results: The enzyme supplementation resulted in a significant CPDR improvement [0% (0-0) vs. 4.6% (0.4-6.0); P<0.00046]. With the increased dose of enzymes in 16 patients with abnormal C-mixed triglyceride breath test results and lipase dose less than 3000 U/g of fat, higher CPDR values [8.6% (5.6-12.7); P<0.000027] were observed. However, a 1-month UDCA withdrawal resulted in a significant reduction in (P<0.000031) fat digestion and absorption [2.9% (0.7-5.8)].

Conclusion: UDCA supplementation seems to enhance lipid digestion and absorption in pancreatic insufficient CF patients with mild liver involvement. This finding points toward the potential impact of UDCA supplementation on nutritional status in CF patients with liver disease and underscores the often overlooked role of factors other than pancreatic enzymes on digestion and absorption of fats in CF.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breath Tests
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics / therapeutic use*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism*
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Liver Diseases / etiology
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism
  • Male
  • Triglycerides / metabolism
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Young Adult


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics
  • Dietary Fats
  • Triglycerides
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid