1. The effect of silicon (Si) contained in drinking water and solid food on the intestinal absorption of aluminium (Al) remains a matter of debate. The present study was designed to readdress this issue in the experimental animal, and to examine concomitantly the effects of citrate and the fasting state, respectively.

2. Three groups of young, non-fasted rats (n = 8 per group) were gavaged by solutions containing 3.8 ng of 26Al, 63 ng of 27Al, and either distilled water (<0.1 mg/l Si) or commercial mineral water with a medium (6 mg/l) or high (14 mg/l) Si concentration.

3. Two other groups of eight non-fasted rats each received the same distilled water or high-Si gavage solution, respectively, together with a high citrate concentration (62 g/l). In each case the animals had free access to drinking water for 5 days before and 2 days after the gavage, containing the same Si concentration as in the gavage solution. A sixth group of eight rats was gavaged by low-Si, Al and distilled water in the fasted state.

4. The animals were killed 48 h after gavage, and blood, tissue and urine samples were collected for 26Al measurements by accelerator mass spectrometry.

5. We found that the fraction of absorbed 26Al retained in the skeleton (0.025–0.030%) was of the same order of magnitude as the fraction excreted in the 48 h urine (0.035-0.037%). High Si concentrations in the drinking water failed to depress the 26Al fraction absorbed, as estimated on the basis of skeletal accumulation and urinary excretion.

6. The administration of citrate-containing fluid enhanced 26Al absorption 5- to 10-fold (P < 0.005), but again the Si content of drinking water did not interfere. Finally, the intestinal absorption of 26Al was approximately 15 times higher in the fasted than in the non-fasted state.

7. In conclusion, the provision of large amounts of Si in the drinking water failed to modify physiological intestinal Al absorption under basal conditions or after its stimulation by citrate. However, a prolonged fast greatly enhanced Al absorption, compared with the non-fasted state.

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