Malabsorption is impaired absorption of nutrients by the intestine, especially the small intestine, although much water and some nutrients can be absorbed by the large intestine (colon). The small intestine is virtually the only natural entry of nutrients to the body. Malabsorption may be generalized or of a single nutrient.

Keywords: absorption; malabsorption; lipids; carbohydrates; proteins

Figure 1.

The absorptive surface of the small intestine

Figure 2.

Physiology and pathophysiology of fat absorption.

Figure 3.

Jejunal biopsy appearances on dissecting microscopy in a normal subject (a) showing finger‐like villi and in a patient with coeliac disease (b) showing no villi but a flat surface with the openings of the crypts. Magnification approximately ×125.



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Further Reading

Losowsky MS (1984) The consequences of malabsorption. In: Bouchier IAD, Allan RN, Hodgson HJF and Keighley MRB (eds) Textbook of Gastroenterology, pp. 441–448. London: Baillière Tindall.

Losowsky MS, Walker BE and Kelleher J (1974) Malabsorption in Clinical Practice. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Sleisenger MH (1983) Malabsorption and nutritional support. Clinics in Gastroenterology, pp. 323–613. London: WB Saunders.

Schiller LR (ed.) (1997) Small intestine. In: Feldman M (ed., series) Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Philadelphia PA: Churchill Livingstone.

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How to Cite close
Losowsky, Monty S(Apr 2001) Malabsorption. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0002134]