A dose-response study comparing ursodeoxycholic and chenodeoxycholic acid was carried out in six men with asymptomatic radiolucent gallstones present in well-visualizing gallbladders. The study tested the effects of a low (averaging 6 mg/kg/day) or medium dose (averaging 11 mg/kg/day) of each bile acid on the cholesterol saturation of bile as well as on bile acid metabolism, as inferred from biliary and fecal bile acid composition. Ursodeoxycholic acid, at low or medium doses, induced bile desaturation in most patients, whereas chenodeoxycholic acid did not. Despite the greater desaturation efficacy of ursodeoxycholic acid, biliary bile acids became less enriched with the administered bile acid during ursodeoxycholic acid treatment than during chenodeoxycholic acid treatment. Both bile acids were nearly completely 7-dehydroxylated to lithocholic acid by colonic bacteria, but biliary lithocholic increased only slightly (and similarly) with each bile acid. Fecal bile acid composition suggested that administered ursodeoxycholic acid suppressed endogenous bile acid synthesis much less than chenodeoxycholic acid. The results indicate that ursodeoxycholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid have similar but not identical effects on bile acid metabolism, but that for a given dose, ursodeoxycholic acid is a more potent desaturating agent than chenodeoxycholic acid. The results suggest that cholesterol gallstone dissolution with ursodeoxycholic acid should occur with a dose of 8-10 mg/kg in most nonobese patients.
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