Fat malabsorption is the failure to fully absorb fats from food in the digestive system. This is caused by a disturbance in the normal process of digestion and/or transport, for example due to an inherited condition, an infection, an allergy or a structural abnormality. Usually, nutrients from food, including fats, proteins and carbohydrates, are broken down and absorbed through the walls of the intestines into the bloodstream, and are then transported around the body. If fats aren’t properly absorbed or transported, they can’t be distributed throughout the body. This can result in faltering growth (also known as failure to thrive).

As well as failure to thrive, other signs of fat malabsorption are ongoing diarrhoea or fatty deposits in poo. Excessive fat in poo makes it pale in appearance and very smelly. The poo will float and be hard to flush away.

Two types of dietary fats are long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). The break down and absorption of MCTs is quicker than for LCTs because the process requires fewer steps. This means that MCTs provide a quicker source of energy than LCTs and that MCTs in formula may be particularly beneficial for infants with fat malabsorption.

Speak to your doctor if you are worried that your child may have fat malabsorption issues.