A carbon-13 breath test to characterize glucose absorption and utilization in children

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. Nov-Dec 1988;7(6):842-7. doi: 10.1097/00005176-198811000-00008.


After the administration of a 5% glucose-water solution that contained tracer amounts of the stable nonradioactive isotope 13C, breath samples were collected from five children with congenital glucose-galactose malabsorption and five with severe small bowel villous atrophy and chronic diarrhea. The 13CO2 breath test curves of the children with the congenital malabsorption and chronic diarrhea were compared with each other and with those from three healthy children and four infants with severe malnutrition but no diarrhea. The breath test curves from the children with glucose-galactose malabsorption and from those with diarrhea were significantly different from those of the other two groups, a finding consistent with impairment of glucose absorption. The [13C]glucose breath test clearly identified the children with severe glucose malabsorption. Further studies are required to determine whether less severe cases of carbohydrate malabsorption also can be identified using the parameters described in our study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breath Tests*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / metabolism
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / metabolism


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Glucose