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Steatorrhea is the presence of excess fat in feces. Stools may also float due to excess lipid, have an oily appearance and be especially foul smelling. An oily anal leakage or some level of fecal incontinence may occur. There is increased fat excretion, which can be measured by determining the fecal fat level. While definitions have not been standardised, fat excretion in feces in excess of 0.3 (g/kg)/day is considered indicative of steatorrhea.

Possible biological causes

Possible biological causes can be lack of bile acids (due to liver damage or hypolipidemic drugs), defects in pancreatic juices (enzymes), and defective mucosal cells. The absence of bile acids will cause the feces to turn gray or pale. Another cause of steatorrhea is due to the adverse effect of Octreotide which is an analog of somatostatin used clinically to treat acromegaly.

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As a side effect

Steatorrhea can also be due to eating non-digestible oils or fats such as Olestra, and a side-effect of medicines that prevent the absorption of dietary fats such as Orlistat.

Artificial fats

The fat substitute Olestra, used in some reduced-fat foods, was reported to cause leakage in some consumers during the test-marketing phase. As a result, the product was reformulated before general release to a hydrogenated form that is not liquid at physiologic temperature. The United Statesmarker Food and Drug Administration warning indicated that excessive consumption of Olestra could result in "loose stools"; this warning has not been required since 2003.


Orlistat (Xenical) is a diet pill that works by blocking the enzymes that digest fat. As a result fat cannot be absorbed from the gut and some fat is excreted in the feces instead of being metabolically digested, sometimes causing oily anal leakage.

Natural fats

Consuming jojoba oil has been documented to cause steatorrhea and anal leakage because it is indigestible.

Consuming escolar and oilfish (sometimes called butterfish) will often cause steatorrhea. The fish is commonly used in party catering due to its delicate flavor and the fact that it is cheap and readily available.


Treatments are mainly correction of the underlying cause, as well as digestive enzyme supplements.


  1. Comparative aspects of lipid digestion and absorption: physiological correlates of wax ester digestion
  2. WrongDiagnosis >Treatments for Steatorrhea Retrieved on 20 Mars, 2009

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