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J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Nov;51(5):638-44. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3181eb3128.

Intestinal mucosal permeability of severely underweight and nonmalnourished Bangladeshi children and effects of nutritional rehabilitation.

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International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh.



Lactulose/mannitol (L/M) intestinal permeability tests were completed to compare the intestinal function of severely underweight children recovering from diarrhea and other illnesses and of nonmalnourished children from the same communities, and to evaluate the effects of food supplementation, with or without psychosocial stimulation, on the changes in intestinal function among the underweight children.


Seventy-seven malnourished children completed intestinal permeability studies at baseline and 3 months after receiving 1 of the following randomly assigned treatment regimens: group-C--fortnightly follow-up at community-based follow-up units, including growth monitoring and promotion, health education, and micronutrient supplementation, n = 17; group-SF--same as group-C plus supplementary food (SF) to provide 150 to 300 kcal/day, n = 23; group-PS--same as group-C plus psychosocial stimulation (PS), n = 17; or group-SF + PS--same as group-C plus SF and PS, n = 20. Seventeen nonmalnourished children were included as comparison subjects.


The malnourished children's mean ± SD initial age was 13.1 ± 4.0 months, their mean weight-for-age z score was -3.82 ± 0.61, and their median (interquartile range) urinary L/M recovery ratio was 0.16 (0.10-0.28). Eighty-four percent of the children had L/M ≥ 0.07, suggestive of impaired intestinal function. The median L/M of the malnourished children was significantly greater than that of 17 relatively well-nourished children (median 0.09; interquartile range 0.05-0.12; P = 0.001). There were no significant differences in baseline characteristics of the severely malnourished children by treatment group. Following treatment, the L/M ratio improved in all of the groups (P < 0.001), but there were no significant differences in these changes by treatment group. There was a significant positive association between weight gain and the magnitude of improvement in L/M ratio (r = 0.30, P = 0.012).


Intestinal mucosal function, as measured by sugar permeability, is impaired among severely underweight children. Intestinal permeability improves in relation to weight gain, but intestinal mucosal recovery is not specifically related to the types or amount of food supplementation or PS provided in this trial.

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