Bimodal distribution of fasting gastric acidity in a rural African population

  • A.M. Sammon
  • M Mguni
  • L Mapele
  • K.O. Awotedu
  • J.E. Iputo


Setting. The people of Transkei eat a diet high in linoleic acid, the principal fatty acid in maize. The theory has been put forward that a diet high in linoleic acid and low in fat and riboflavin, such as the traditional diet in Transkei, results in overproduction of prostaglandin E2 in the gastric mucosa, and that this overproduction in turn causes a suppression of gastric add production.
Objective. To investigate the effect of diet on fasting gastric pH in a rural black African population.
Design. Fasting gastric acid samples were obtained by fine nasogastric tube aspiration from 150 volunteers at a rural health clinic. The pH of these samples was measured and a full dietary questionnaire was used. Helicobacter pylori serology was done on a subgroup of 30 volunteers.
Results and conclusions. A bimodal pH distribution was found. Approximately half the population had a gastric pH within the range 1 - 4; Half had a pH of over 4. A high pH was significantly associated with consumption of maize (p = 0.006), and with consumption of both pumpkin and beans (p = 0.006). A high proportion of this rural African population has a diet-associated abnormally high gastric pH. The pattern of upper gastrointestinal disease may be significantly affected by diet in this community and in others with a similar diet.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135