Objectives: To test the hypotheses that: the efficiency of carbohydrate absorption in childhood increases with age, and decreased carbohydrate absorption occurs more frequently with juices containing more fructose than glucose and/or sorbitol than with juices which contain equal amounts of fructose and glucose and are sorbitol-free.
Methods: One hundred and four healthy children were recruited from the Ambulatory Center at Maimonides Children's Center. They were assigned to one of three age groups: approximately 1, 3 and 5 years of age. Each child received one age-specific dose (by randomization) of one of four juices: a) pear juice which contains fructose in excess to glucose and a large amount of sorbitol; b) apple juice which is similar to pear juice in its fructose to glucose ratio but contains four times less sorbitol than pear juice; c) white grape juice or d) purple grape juice both of which contain equal amounts of fructose and glucose and are sorbitol-free. Breath hydrogen excretion (BH2) was utilized as the index of carbohydrate absorption. It was measured in fasting children and at 30-minute intervals for 3 hours after drinking the single serving of juice. Multiple breath hydrogen related parameters were quantified and results were expressed as: BH2 peak, area under the curve, and degree of carbohydrate malabsorption. After the test, parents completed a questionnaire and recorded signs and symptoms of intestinal malabsorption for 24 hours.
Results: Pear juice related BH2 levels were significantly higher among children 1 and 3 years of age as compared to the levels achieved after the other juices. Apple juice related BH2 levels were significantly higher only among the youngest age group of children. There was no significant difference in carbohydrate absorption among the 5 year old children regardless of the juice consumed. Incomplete carbohydrate absorption (BH2 peak above 20 ppm) occurred more frequently after pear juice consumption (84%) than after apple juice (41%) or grape juice (white 20%, purple 24%) [p < 0.05]. Further outcome measures of BH2 excretion did not elicit differences beyond those detected by the above-mentioned parameters. Parents reported diarrhea in six children after pear juice, two after apple juice and two after purple grape juice and these children had the highest BH2 levels in their respective groups. No other symptoms were reported.
Conclusions: The data show that the efficiency of carbohydrate absorption of one age-specific serving of juice increases with advancing age of children. Decreased carbohydrate absorption occurs more often after ingestion of juices that contain more sorbitol, a nonabsorbable sugar and higher concentrations of fructose over glucose than after ingestion of juices which lack sorbitol and contain equal amounts of fructose and glucose.