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Curr Opin Pediatr. 1994 Oct;6(5):562-7.

Lactose intolerance and lactase deficiency in children.

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Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The term lactase deficiency is widely used to indicate a low or absent level of lactase enzyme in the small intestine, leading to lactose intolerance. This term is correctly used when the intestinal mucosa is damaged and results in secondary lactase deficiency. In the case of the genetically determined decrease of lactase activity during childhood, however, low lactase levels suggest that the majority of the world's population is "abnormal," whereas individuals from caucasian extraction with high levels of lactase enzyme throughout life are then considered "normal." It would be better to ascribe racial and ethnic lactose malabsorption as the result of genetically determined reduction of lactase activity, rather then implying an "abnormality" by the term, "deficiency." Recent studies reveal that this genetic control is at the transcriptional level. The symptomatology of lactose intolerance varies widely, and the diagnostic method of choice is the lactose breath hydrogen test in combination with clinical findings, although small intestinal biopsies should be performed when mucosal diseases are suspected. Treatment of lactose intolerance depends on the age of the child. In young infants complete restriction of lactose containing foods is rarely necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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