Efficacy of standard glucose-based and reduced-osmolarity maltodextrin-based oral rehydration solutions: effect of sugar malabsorption

M el-Mougi, A Hendawi, H Koura, E Hegazi, O Fontaine, N F Pierce
Bulletin of the World Health Organization 1996, 74 (5): 471-7
Previously we reported that standard oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution is not as effective as a reduced-osmolarity glucose-based ORS for the treatment of children with acute noncholera diarrhoea: with standard ORS the diarrhoea lasts longer, stool output is greater, serum sodium is higher, and there is more need for supplemental intravenous infusion. We studied a reduced-osmolarity maltodextrin (MD)-based ORS to determine whether it had similar benefits, and also the effect of sugar malabsorption on the efficacy of standard and MD-based ORS. A total of 90 boys aged 3-24 months with acute noncholera diarrhoea and moderate dehydration were randomly assigned to either standard ORS (glucose 20 g/l, osmolarity 311 mmol/l) or MD-ORS (MD 50 g/l, osmolarity 227 mmol/l). There were no differences in treatment results. Some 46% of subjects had a high total stool output (> 300 g/kg), which was unrelated to the type of ORS given. High stool output was significantly associated with a longer duration of diarrhoea (33 vs. 15 hours; P < 0.001), a persistently elevated serum sodium (149 vs. 144 mmol/l at 24 h; P < 0.02), the need for intravenous infusion (11/41 vs. 0/48; P < 0.002), and an increase in faecal reducing substances (10.8 vs. 3.4 g/l at 24 h; P < 0.001). We conclude that some children given standard ORS develop osmotic diarrhoea owing to the combined effect of transient sugar malabsorption and slight hypertonicity of the ORS. Earlier studies show that this adverse outcome can largely be avoided when extra water is given in reduced-osmolarity glucose-based ORS. Reduced osmolarity has no benefit, however, when glucose is replaced by maltodextrin, probably because the sugars released by hydrolysis of MD, when malabsorbed, raise the intraluminal osmolarity to equal or exceed that of standard ORS. Thus, reduced-osmolarity glucose-based ORS is superior to both standard ORS and reduced-osmolarity solutions based on maltodextrin and probably other complex carbohydrates. Studies are in progress to define the optimal formulation of reduced-osmolarity glucose-based ORS.

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