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JGH Open. 2018 Sep 19;2(6):307-310. doi: 10.1002/jgh3.12089. eCollection 2018 Dec.

Lactase deficiency and lactose intolerance in a multiracial Asian population in Malaysia.

Author information

1
Faculty of Medicine University of New South Wales Sydney New South Wales Australia.
2
Ampang Hospital Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.
3
Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

Abstract

Background and Aims:

There have been few reports on lactase deficiency (LD) and lactose intolerance (LI) in Malaysia, which has a peculiar mix of three distinct major Asian races-Malay, Chinese, and Indian. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of LD and LI in a young multiethnic Malaysian population.

Methods:

Lactase activity was measured with a 13CO2 lactose breath test using an infrared spectrometer. Each subject took 25 g of lactose naturally enriched in 13CO2 together with 250 mL of water after an overnight fast. Breath samples were collected at baseline and at 15-min intervals for 180 min. Subjects were asked to report gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms following ingestion of the lactose test meal.

Results:

Of the 248 subjects tested, 216 (87.1%) were lactase deficient. We found no significant differences in the presentation of LD between gender and races. LD was found in 87.5% of males and 86.8% of females (P = 0.975) and in different races: Chinese (88.5%) versus Malay (83.1%) (P = 0.399), Indian (90.5%) versus Malay (P = 0.295), and Chinese versus Indian (P = 0.902). LI was diagnosed in only 49 (19.8%) subjects; 35 patients had diarrhea, while the remainder had at least two other GI symptoms after the lactose meal.

Conclusion:

The prevalence of LD was high in all three major ethnic groups-Malays, Chinese, and Indians. Ironically, the prevalence of LI was low overall.

KEYWORDS:

13CO2 lactose breath test; lactase deficiency; lactose intolerance; multiracial Asian population

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