Utility of breath ethane as a noninvasive biomarker of Vitamin E status in children

Mamdouh Refat, Tara J. Moore, Manabu Kazui, Terence H. Risby, Jay A. Perman, Kathleen B. Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The purpose of our study was to determine if the ethane content of expired air could be a useful index of vitamin E status in children. Eight children with vitamin E deficiency secondary to chronic severe liver disease were studied: six of these children were treated with parenteral vitamin E (2-5 mg/kg/dose every 4-7 d). Measures of vitamin E status pre- and posttherapy were: serum vitamin E, 2 ± 1 versus 7 ± 1 Mg/mL (p < 0.001); serum vitamin E:total lipids, 0.3 ± 0.1 versus 1.0 ± 0.1 mg/g (p < 0.001); and erythrocyte peroxide hemolysis test, 80 ± 10 versus 6 ± 12% (p < 0.001). Fasting breath ethane in the patients pre- and posttherapy was 78 ± 10 versus 31 ± 11 pmol/ kg/min (p < 0.001). Breath ethane correlated negatively with serum vitamin E (p < 0.042) and serum E:total lipids (p < 0.004) and positively with the erythrocyte peroxide hemolysis test (p < 0.003). Values for treated patients did not differ from those for fasted sibling controls (34 ±12 pmol/kg/min), postprandial sibling controls (31 ±12 pmol/ kg/min), and healthy children sampled randomly, in the nonfasted state (21 ± 14 pmol/kg/min). Breath ethane production in one patient (up to 168 pmol/kg/min) did not normalize after treatment of vitamin E deficiency until her selenium deficiency was corrected as well. We conclude that this noninvasive test can be useful as a screen for vitamin E deficiency in children and for ascertaining response to therapy. The presence of high concentrations of ethane in expired air in vitamin E-sufficient subjects may indicate deficiencies of other antioxidants such as selenium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)396-403
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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