1. The total sialic acid content of human gastric aspirates was measured using a colorimetric assay. Care was taken to optimize the assay and to eliminate interference. 2. The sialic acid content of gastric aspirates collected under resting conditions from 77 patients with non-ulcer dyspepsia was found to decrease with age from > 100 micrograms/ml at 25 years and younger to < 20 micrograms/ml above 70 years of age. 3. Analysis of the sialic acids by gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and thin-layer chromatography showed the presence of N-acetylneuraminic acid and two O-acylated derivatives, 9-O-acetyl- and 9-O-lactyl-N-acetylneuraminic acids. These forms were predominantly glycosidically bound. 4. Thin-layer chromatographic analysis of individual aspirate samples showed that the O-acetylated sialic acids were present in all samples, with a maximum of 25% and a minimum of 5% of the total sialic acids.