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Am J Clin Nutr. 1979 Sep;32(9):1962-9.

Lactose malabsorption in Bangladeshi village children: relation with age, history of recent diarrhea, nutritional status, and breast feeding.


The prevalence of lactose malabsorption (LM) among Bangladeshi village children has been determined using the recent developed breath hydrogen test. Initial hospital-based comparison studies showed general agreement between the breath hydrogen test and a modified lactose tolerance test. Two hundred thirty-four children, stratified by age, nutritional status, and history of recent diarrhea then participated in the field study. LM was diagnosed in more than 80% of children over 36 months of age but in none of the children under 6 months. Rates of LM were significantly increased in children with a history of recent diarrhea and a greater proportion of children in some age groups evidenced malabsorption in association with acute undernutrition. In the weanling age group children who were still breast feeding had a lower rate of LM than fully weaned subjects.


A study was conducted among 234 Bangladeshi children to determine LM (lactose malabsorption) and its relation with age, history of diarrhea, nutrition, and breastfeeding. LM was determined by using BHT (breath hydrogen test) which showed similar results to a modified lactose tolerance test conducted in hospitals. BHT results indicated that 80% of the children over 36 months had LM while all infants less than 6 months absorbed lactose completely. With recent incidences of diarrhea and acute malnutrition the rates of LM increased. In addition, children who were still breastfeeding had a lower rate of LM than weaned children perhaps since breastfed children suffer less from gastroenteritis and diarrhea or because some component of breast milk protects against LM. The United Nation's Protein Advisory Group encourages milk consumption but other reports cite increased mortality rates and slower recovery when malnourished children were supplied lactose-containing milk. It is suggested that milk be distributed in low doses in areas where there are high LM rates.

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