1. The mechanisms underlying gastrectomy osteopenia are not yet clear. The gastrectomy-associated cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency may favour osteopenia and skeletal fractures. Also, the exclusion of the duodenum from the food passage may contribute to gastrectomy osteopenia. To investigate this, rats were gastrectomized and the passage of nutrients restored either with the duodenum excluded (Roux Y) or included (Longmire). Sham-operated rats served as controls. In half of the rats in each gastrectomy group the serum B12 levels were normalized by parenteral administration of B12.

2. Four months post operation, both gastrectomy groups showed a similar degree of osteopenia. There was normal bone mineralization; serum levels of parathyroid hormone were normal, but decreased for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and elevated for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D; in urine there was decreased pH and excessive hyperphosphaturia.

3 B12 therapy had no influence on any of the essential bone and mineral metabolic parameters.

4. We conclude that osteopenia in the gastrectomized rat (i) is not due to B12 or folic acid deficiency, calcium deficiency or secondary hyperparathyroidism; (ii) is independent of the type of anatomic reconstruction of the digestive tract; (iii) appears to be related to disturbed vitamin D, phosphorus and acid–base metabolism.

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