The effect of a chronic (4 weeks) administration of sulphurous thermal water on gastric acid secretion and mucosal defense was investigated in rats. Animals were randomized to receive daily intake of tap water or of thermal water obtained from a local spa center (Tabiano, Parma, Italy). Rats were followed for one month as for water and food consumption, body weight and general conditions. At the end of the watering period, the following study protocols were carried out: (a) study of basal and stimulated gastric acid secretion under general anesthesia, and (b) study of the gastric mucosal resistance against the damage induced by ethanol and indomethacin in conscious rats. Basal acid secretion and the acid response to pentagastrin or to histamine were similar in rats assuming ordinary drinking water or thermal water. As for resistance to gastric damage, histological, but not macroscopic, evaluation revealed that rats which assumed thermal water were slightly more resistant to the gastrolesive effect of ethanol (either absolute or diluted). Again, when indomethacin was used as a noxious stimulus, no difference was noted between the two groups as for macroscopic damage; only a nonsignificant reduction of damage was observed histologically in stomachs of rats assuming thermal water. In conclusion, these results indicate that chronic treatment of rats with thermal water, rich in sulphur compounds, may have only minimal effects on the rat gastric mucosa and did not significantly affect mucosal defense mechanisms. The observed tendency to gastroprotection would possibly need further investigation with longer periods of administration.

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