Medicine: Duration of Digestion

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The most important news which the studious editor of the American Journal of Roentgenology, Dr. Lawrence Reynolds of Detroit, had to impart to his readers last week was that two English x-ray experts have completed the first x-ray studies of how long the healthy human stomach requires to digest various kinds of foodstuffs.

The x-ray method of Drs. William Charles D. Maile and K. J. L. Scott utilizes the shadow effect of one to two ounces of bismuth swallowed with a test meal. That small amount of bismuth does not ascertainably retard digestion, they discovered, after they set to work on three doctors and their wives, one dentist and one medical student. The most surprising fact that Drs. Maile and Scott discovered was that milk is one of the most tedious foods to digest. A pint of rich raw milk takes 6½ hours to get out of the stomach. A pint of boiled milk requires five hours. A pint of water requires only 45 minutes to get through.

In an original report, which they published in the Lancet, Drs. Maile & Scott stated that it requires six hours to digest a mixed meal of eggs, toast, cream and coffee. A supper of cold pheasant, potatoes, chutney, pudding, jelly, beer and coffee stayed in the stomach about 47 hours. But 3½to 4 hours usually suffice to digest the ordinary meal. A headache, an emotional upset or a high ratio of fatty foods delay digestion.

Some foods and their digestive times which Drs. Maile & Scott tested:

Hours Hours

Cane Sugar .... 1½, Eggs, soft boiled. 2½

Banana, raw .... 4¼ Eggs, raw 3½

Gooseberries, stewed 3¾, Eggs, hard boiled. 4½

Eggs & Milk, raw 4¼

White Bread 3¾... Beef, boiled 4

Cream, thin .... 3½

Butter, 6 Vegetable Salad 2½