High rates of fructose malabsorption are associated with reduced liver fat in obese african americans

Ryan W. Walker, Kim Anne Lê, Jaime Davis, Tanya L. Alderete, Rebecca Cherry, Sylvie Lebel, Michael I. Goran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: African Americans commonly have lower liver fat accumulation than Hispanics, despite a similar propensity for obesity. Both ethnicities exhibit high consumption of fructose-containing beverages, which has been associated with high liver fat owing to the lipogenic properties of fructose. Therefore, differences in fructose absorption may be an important factor in regulating liver fat deposition. We hypothesized that fructose malabsorption in African Americans may reduce hepatic delivery of fructose, thus contributing to lower liver fat deposition compared to Hispanics. Methods: Thirty-seven obese young adults aged 21.4 ± 2.1 years (16 African American, 21 Hispanic) underwent a 3-hour hydrogen (H2) breath test to assess fructose malabsorption. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to determine visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue volume and liver fat. Fructose malabsorption was expressed as an area under the curve for H2production (H2AUC). Results: Compared to Hispanics, African Americans had lower liver fat (5.4% ± 5.0% vs 8.9% ± 2.3%, p = 0.02) and a higher prevalence of fructose malabsorption (75.0% vs 42.9%; p = 0.05). Liver fat was negatively related to the extent of fructose malabsorption in African Americans (r = −0.53, p = 0.03), and this relationship was independent of the volumes of total fat and subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue. There were no significant relationships between liver fat and fructose malabsorption in Hispanics. Conclusion: African Americans have both a higher prevalence and a greater magnitude of fructose malabsorption than Hispanics. In African Americans, fructose malabsorption was negatively correlated with liver fat, which may be protective against fatty liver disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-374
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Beverages
  • Ethnicities
  • Fructose malabsorption
  • Liver fat
  • Obesity


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