Fat Malabsorption

Patients who rely on supplemental enteral nutrition may lack pancreatic enzymes necessary to properly hydrolyze available fats and absorb these vital nutrients.

Pancreatic enzymes such as lipase are necessary to break down fats into fatty acids and monoglycerides, and make these calories available to be absorbed by the patient. When patients lack the ability to properly hydrolyze available fats, malabsorption may occur.

Inadequately hydrolyzed fats can result in:

  • Fewer calories to the patient
  • Weight loss
  • Shortage of key fats (omega-3 fats)
  • Lower levels of some vitamins

Malabsorption of dietary fats is characterized by reduced digestion of essential fats and decreased caloric absorption, as well as corresponding symptoms that include stomach pain, gas, and oily or foul smelling stools.

Why Effectively Hydrolyzing Long-Chain Triglycerides Matters

Fats varying in fatty acid chain lengths are hydrolyzed and absorbed differently. When hydrolyzed, long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) yield long-chain fatty acids, such as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are structural components of membranes and of biological mediators involved in the regulation of many physiological functions, including normal growth and development.

Learn more facts about fats. 




Fast Facts on Fats

  • In enteral formulas, protein can be prepared in a form that is pre-hydrolyzed, stable, and available to be readily absorbed. However, pre-hydrolyzed fatty acids and monoglycerides are not available in enteral formulas since they are not stable and spoil quickly
  • Literature from other studies has demonstrated that a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial in maintaining normal development, immunological function, and overall health1

1. Simopoulos A. Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2006; 60: 502-507.​