Children with unexplained, recurring stomach pains could haven intolerance to fructose, a new study finds.

Unveiled today at the American College of Gastroenterology's (ACG) 75th Annual Scientific meeting in San Antonio, Texas, the study, "Fructose Intolerance/Malabsorption and Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children," investigated a total of 245 patients with unexplained chronic abdominal pain (alone or associated with constipation, gas or bloating and/or diarrhea) and found 132 to have a sensitivity the monosaccharide.

The patients ranged in age from 2 to 18 years old, with a median age of 11. 150 of the 245 patients were female.

Fructose intolerance is typically diagnosed by exclusion, according to researcher Daniel Lustig, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist with the Mary Bridge Children's Hospital and Health Center in Tacoma, WA, who explained that once other GI conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are ruled out, a hydrogen breath test is given to the patient.

If the patient's breath hydrogen exceeds 20 points above baseline, then the patient is likely fructose intolerant.

Breath hydrogen test (BHT) for fructose was performed in all patients in the study and it was positive for fructose intolerance in 132 of 245 patients (53.9 percent). A total of 113 of 245 (46.1 percent) of patients had a negative BHT for fructose intolerance.

All of the 132 patients with a positive BHT for fructose had a nutritional consult with a registered dietician and were placed on a low-fructose diet. Using a standard pain scale for children, 88 of the 132 patients (67.7 percent) reported resolution of symptoms on a low-fructose diet.

Despite the simple fix, cutting fructose from a diet, especially that of a child's or teen's, is easier said than done.

"With fructose in everything from fruit to pre-packaged products, soft drinks and honey, it is difficult to avoid so the challenge is finding those foods without fructose and still maintain a healthy nutritional balance," said Dr. Lustig.

He said fructose intolerance is more prevalent in teenage girls with chronic abdominal pain.

In his practice, Dr. Lustig said he typically sees three or four teenage girls a week with a new diagnosis of fructose intolerance or for follow-up.

"While there is definitely a subset of patients who respond well to a low-fructose diet, it's challenging for patients who are fructose intolerant to maintain, especially teenagers. But the good news is that over half of patients who are fructose intolerant are able to maintain a low-fructose diet and are able to notice an immediate improvement in their symptoms," concluded Dr. Lustig.