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Am J Clin Nutr. 1984 Sep;40(3):591-600.

The effect of dietary lactose on the early recovery from protein-energy malnutrition. I. Clinical and anthropometric indices.


To assess the advisability of using lactose-containing formulas in the rehabilitation of severely malnourished children, indices of clinical recovery, growth and restoration of body proteins and gastrointestinal function were measured longitudinally during the initial 45 days of hospitalization in 20 male, preschool children with kwashiorkor and marasmic-kwashiorkor. All patients received a diet based on cows' milk, but half were allocated to a formula pretreated with beta-galactosidase to hydrolyze the lactose, while the others received the untreated, intact milk. The groups were identical with respect to clinical criteria on admission. For the final 37 days of the protocol, the subjects received 4 g of protein and 150 kcal of energy per kg per day. More diarrhea was experienced by the intact lactose group during early hospitalization. Overall, recovery was satisfactory in both cohorts, and there were no differences in rates of growth, body protein repletion, restoration of energy reserves nor intestinal functions. In conclusion, the routine reduction of lactose content from a milk-based diet for severe protein-energy malnutrition offers no advantages.

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