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J Pediatr. 1998 Sep;133(3):401-5.

Effects of lactose intake on lactose digestion and colonic fermentation in preterm infants.

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Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, and The Ohio State University Hospitals, Columbus, USA.


The purpose of this study was to determine whether doubling the lactose concentration in formula for preterm infants lowers the fraction of lactose digested and/or increases the fraction of lactose fermented. Six preterm infants, 31 to 36 weeks' postconceptional age, were fed a standard preterm formula (carbohydrate is 50% lactose and 50% glucose polymer)(SC) and/or the same volume of formula modified to contain lactose as the sole carbohydrate (LAC). Relative lactose digestion during the LAC formula feeding compared with SC formula feeding was measured by using a stable isotope approach for quantifying the fractional contribution of formula lactose to plasma glucose enrichment. Relative lactose digestion was 0.98 +/- 0.17 (range, 0.70 to 1.19). Fractional fermentation of lactose was estimated from breath H2 excretion (0.52 +/- 0.34 during LAC feeding and 0.23 +/- 0.22 during SC feeding, P = .11). The rate of breath H2 excretion was much higher with LAC (1.34 +/- 0.98 mL/h) than with SC (0.27 +/- 0.29, P = .029). In conclusion, doubling the lactose concentration had only modest effects on fractional lactose digestion. Increased breath H2 excretion with LAC may relate to fermentation of nonlactose sugar or to ill-defined changes in colonic physiology or motility, which could enhance colonic fermentation of malabsorbed sugar by H2-producing bacteria.

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