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J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1988 Nov-Dec;7(6):848-51.

Developmental changes of lactose malabsorption in normal Chinese children: a study using breath hydrogen test with a physiological dose of lactose.

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Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, National Yang-Ming Medical College, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.


The malabsorption of a physiological dose of lactose (0.5 g/kg body weight) was studied in 726 healthy Chinese children, ranging in age from 3 to 18 years, using the breath hydrogen test. The prevalence of lactose malabsorption was found to increase with age; it occurred in less than 15% of preschool-age children and in approximately 45% of younger school-age and 60% of older school-age children. Approximately 70% of adolescents measured showed malabsorption. The critical period of change was from 6 to 7 years of age, with the lactose malabsorption rate rising abruptly from 12 to 43%. The incidence of lactose intolerance in teenagers and adolescents was 27 and 33%, respectively. The great majority of them had only dull abdominal pain. No case of lactose intolerance was seen in children less than 9 years of age. These results indicated that preschool Chinese children can absorb a physiological dose of lactose (equivalent to the average amount of milk consumed daily) without any adverse effects. In contrast, one half of school-age children and two thirds of adolescents were malabsorbers.

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