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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Effect of caffeine on the human small intestine.

Methylxanthines produce intracellular accumulation of cyclic 3'5'-AMP (cAMP) by inhibition of phosphodiesterase and mucosal cAMP accumulation. Cyclic AMP is thought to mediate small intestinal secretion caused by some enterotoxins, hormones, and methylxanthines. These studies were designed to evaluate the effect of caffeine on small intestinal net fluid movement and transit times. The administration of caffeine in amounts ordinarily contained in many beverages and medications (75 to 300 mg) resulted in striking net secretion in the jejunum which lasted at least 15 minutes. This occurred in six of seven studies. Baseline net absorption of 0.5 ml per cm per hr was reversed to net secretion of 6.0 +/- 2.2 ml per cm per hr after oral caffeine ingestion (P less than 0.01). Net secretion also occurred in the ileum in seven of eight studies, but the onset of secretion appeared 35 min later than in the jejunum. These patterns of secretion correlated best with the passage of the intestinal bolus of caffeine rather than plasma caffeine levels. In contrast to other net secretory conditions, which increase the speed of transit, small intestinal transit times, as determined by dye dilution methods, were unchanged by caffeine. It is possible that methylxanthine-induced small intestinal secretion may play a role in the symptoms experienced by some patients with functional diarrhea.[1]


  1. Effect of caffeine on the human small intestine. Wald, A., Back, C., Bayless, T.M. Gastroenterology (1976) [Pubmed]
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