Intended for healthcare professionals

Papers And Originals

Diagnosis of Gilbert's Syndrome: Role of Reduced Caloric Intake Test

Br Med J 1973; 3 doi: (Published 15 September 1973) Cite this as: Br Med J 1973;3:559
  1. D. Owens,
  2. S. Sherlock


    Reduction in caloric intake to 400 a day for 72 hours resulted in a significant increase in the plasma bilirubin concentration in patients with Gilbert's syndrome and in normal subjects. This was due to an increase in unconjugated pigment. There was no significant increase in the bilirubin concentration in patients with liver disease or haemolytic anaemia.

    The increase in unconjugated bilirubin was signficantly greater in Gilbert's syndrome than in normals but only when the initial bilirubin concentration was raised. It was usually seen within 24 hours of reducing the caloric intake. An increase of 100% or more suggests that unconjugated hyperbilirubinaemia is due to Gilbert's syndrome. In the normal subjects the unconjugated bilirubin level did not exceed 1·0 mg/100 ml.

    The increase in unconjugated bilirubin concentration on reducing the caloric intake may be due to decreased hepatic bilirubin uridine diphosphate glucuronyl transferase activity, which was shown to be present in seven rats starved for 72 hours. The effect of a 400 calorie diet for 24 hours on the unconjugated bilirubin level may distinguish Gilbert's syndrome from other causes of unconjugated hyperbilirubinaemia.