Ileal pH and apparent absorption of magnesium in rats fed on diets containing either lactose or lactulose

Br J Nutr. 1993 Nov;70(3):747-56. doi: 10.1079/bjn19930170.


The hypothesis was tested that dietary lactose v. glucose stimulates Mg absorption in rats because lactose lowers pH of the ileal lumen, which improves Mg solubility which in turn enhances Mg availability for transport across the ileal epithelium. For comparison, the effects of lactulose were studied because it shares with lactose the characteristic of being poorly digestible. Replacement of glucose by lactose (100 g/kg) significantly stimulated apparent absorption of Mg. Apart from Mg absorption, lactulose also significantly enhanced absorption of Ca and phosphate. Lactose v. glucose lowered the pH of the ileal lumen from 7.5 to 7.2, whereas lactulose significantly reduced it to 7.0. In in vitro incubations a decrease in pH within the range of fluctuation in vivo was found to cause an improved solubility of Mg, and to a lesser extent also of Ca and phosphate. The smaller fall of ileal pH induced by feeding lactose instead of lactulose may explain why lactose improved Mg absorption only. For all individual rats combined there were negative relationships between ileal pH and apparent absorption of minerals, the relationship being strongest for Mg. Neither lactose nor lactulose was found to raise ileal solubility of minerals, which could relate to the possibility that the time of sampling was not appropriate. It is suggested that lactose-induced stimulation of Mg absorption in rats is caused by a lowering of ileal pH.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glucose / administration & dosage
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ileum / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Lactose / administration & dosage*
  • Lactulose / administration & dosage*
  • Magnesium / metabolism*
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Phosphates
  • Lactulose
  • Magnesium
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Calcium