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J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1999 Mar;28(3):282-90.

Epidemiology of altered intestinal permeability to lactulose and mannitol in Guatemalan infants.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis 95616-8669, USA.



Subclinical alterations of small intestinal function have been reported frequently in tropical countries. Studies of small intestinal permeability to lactulose and mannitol were therefore completed in Guatemalan infants from a low-income, periurban community to assess the prevalence of altered intestinal function and the factors associated with this condition.


Two hundred studies were successfully completed in 158 infants who had been free of diarrhea for at least 1 week before the day of study. Urinary concentrations of lactulose and mannitol during the 5-hour period after ingestion of 400 mg/kg body weight of lactulose and 100 mg/kg body weight of mannitol were measured by gas-liquid chromatography and compared by age group, feeding practices, anthropometric indexes, and serum iron and zinc concentrations.


The overall prevalence of altered intestinal permeability (defined as a ratio of urinary recovery of lactulose to mannitol [L/M] > or =0.07) was 30%. The urinary L/M recovery ratio was positively associated with age; low weight for age; and, in infants less than 6 months of age, non-breast-feeding. Children with serum iron concentrations less than 7.16 microM/l (40 [microg/dl) had higher median L/M ratios (L/M = 0.068; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.054, 0.085) than those with iron levels higher than this cutoff (L/M = 0.052; CI = 0.046, 0.058; p = 0.038). The median urinary L/M recovery ratio in 10 currently asymptomatic infants who had diarrhea during the week before testing (0.087; CI = 0.49, 0.154) was higher than that in children who had been free from diarrhea for at least 1 week (0.052; CI = 0.048, 0.056; p = 0.01).


Age, feeding practices, low weight-for-age, low serum iron concentration, and recent diarrhea were all associated with altered intestinal function in this group of Guatemalan infants.

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