We investigated the hydrolysis of sucrose in the small intestine and the subsequent absorption and metabolism of fructose in sucking piglets by measuring temporal changes in the concentration of fructose in the plasma following the administration of physiological amounts of these carbohydrates. Calculations of the area under the curve for fructose in the plasma showed that there was no age limit to the piglets' ability to absorb fructose. However, there was a limit to the amount of fructose that the younger piglets could get from a dose of sucrose. Indeed, we demonstrated that there was a positive linear correlation between a piglet's capacity to hydrolyse sucrose and the age of the piglet up to 15 d of age (r 0.98). The half-life for fructose was 495, 103, 38, 49 and 28 min in 2-, 5-, 7-, 10- and 15-d-old piglets respectively and, thus, there was only limited utilization of fructose in the younger piglets. However, there were 13.0- and 1.4-fold increases in the elimination rate of fructose from the plasma of piglets from 2 to 7 d and from 7 to 15 d respectively, consistent with the reported increase in the deposition of fat in piglets of a similar age range. Hence, the effective metabolism of fructose may be partially dependent: on the amount of adipose tissue present and the phosphorylation of this monosaccharide by hexokinase (EC 22.214.171.124) in this tissue.