It is believed that rare earth elements are not absorbed, and thus they are generally used in some mineral absorption studies as a faecal marker. The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of inulin intake and age on dysprosium (Dy) absorption in rats. Eighty male Wistar rats of four different ages (2, 5, 10 and 20 months) were randomised into either a control group or a group receiving 3·75% inulin in their diet for 4d and then 7·5% inulin until the end of the study. The animals were fed fresh food and water ad libitum for 30d. The intestinal absorption of Dy was determined from a 4d (day 21 to day 25) balance study. Mean faecal Dy recovery (%) in the eight groups (3 months control, 3 months inulin, 6 months control, 6 months inulin, 11 months control, 11 months inulin, 21 months control, 21 months inulin) was 94·0 (sd 8·6), 64·8 (sd 10·1), 95·8 (sd 9·4), 81·5 (sd 12·1), 98·4 (sd 9·8), 87·8 (sd 9·5), 97·8 (sd 6·2) and 84·9 (sd 10·9), respectively. Our results showed clearly that dietary inulin intake decreased faecal Dy recovery in all four rat groups, and faecal Dy recovery was significantly higher in the old rats (10 and 20 months) than in the young and adult rats. These results show that the faecal recovery (or intestinal absorption) of Dy may vary greatly with nutritional or physiological states such as inulin intake or age. The use of rare earth elements as a faecal marker should be thus validated under each nutritional or physiological state before being employed in mineral absorption studies.