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Carbon-13 Breath Tests

Breath tests are based on the idea that the sampling of exhaled breath can provide information about biochemical, physiological or pathological processes within the body. Organic molecules labelled with carbon-13 have been used for many years to follow metabolic pathways in the body. The final oxidation product of organic molecules is carbon dioxide, which is exhaled in the breath. Carbon-13 breath tests have become useful non-invasive tools to measure gastrointestinal function and to monitor pharmacological and nutritional interventions. For instance, the urea breath test to detect the presence of H. pylori in the stomach is now a well-established test for both diagnostic and research purposes. The IAEA supports the application carbon-13 breath tests to assess gastrointestinal function and its relation to absorption of nutrients from the diet.

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