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Mechanisms of Lithogenic Bile Formation in American Indian Women with Cholesterol Gallstones

Scott M. Grundy, Allan L. Metzger and Ronald D. Adler

Phoenix Clinical Research Section, National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism, and Digestive Diseases, Phoenix Indian Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona 85016

Published December 1972

Hepatic secretions of biliary lipids were estimated in 43 patients with and without cholesterol gallstones. Studies were carried out by a marker dilution technique employing duodenal intubation with a three-lumen tube. Hourly secretion rates of cholesterol, bile acids, and phospholipids were determined during constant infusion with liquid formula.

In 17 American Indian women with gallstones, hourly outputs of biliary bile acids were significantly less than those in 7 Indian men and 12 Caucasian women without gallstones. These findings suggest that a decreased hepatic secretion of bile acids contributes significantly to the production of a lithogenic bile in Indian women. However, in Indian women with gallstones, secretion of biliary cholesterol was also significantly increased, as compared with Caucasian women without stones. Therefore, lithogenic bile in Indian women was, in most cases, due to a combined decrease in bile acid output and increase in cholesterol secretion.

In an attempt to determine the mechanisms for these abnormalities, cholesterol balance studies were done in Indian women with gallstones and normal Indian men. Balance data were compared with results reported previously in non-Indian patients studied by the same techniques, and in general, Indian women showed a slight increase in fecal excretion of bile acids. Since bile acids in the enterohepatic circulation were relatively depleted in Indian women, these patients had a reduced fractional reabsorption. However, previous studies have shown that Caucasians can rapidly replenish bile acid pools in the presence of much greater intestinal losses, and it is suggested that among Indian women with gallstones, reduced secretion rates of bile acids are primarily the result of defective homeostatic regulation of bile acid synthesis.

In Indian women with gallstones, at least two factors may have contributed to an increased availability of cholesterol in the liver for secretion into bile. First, cholesterol was inadequately converted into bile acids, and secondly, an increased amount of cholesterol was synthesized, as shown by the balance technique. This enhanced production of cholesterol can partially be explained by obesity, but other factors may also play a role.

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