Breath Hydrogen Excretion after Lactose and Whole Milk Ingestion: A Prospective Comparison in Lactase Deficiency

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As the 50 g of lactose in the usual clinical test is unphysiologic both because it is equivalent to 1 L milk and because the usual dietary intake is not the purified sugar, but milk, we undertook a prospective comparison of the absorption of lactose after both lactose and milk ingestion with an equivalent lactose content. We studied 51 healthy volunteers, using the hydrogen breath test technique. All patients received 25 g lactose in aqueous solution. Subjects with an abnormal test had the test repeated with 500 ml whole cow's milk, whereas subjects with a normal test repeated the test after ingesting the unabsorbable sugar lactulose to detect the capacity of their colonic flora to produce the gas. Symptoms of gastrointestinal intolerance were also recorded. Compared to an equivalent lactose amount, milk lactose is better absorbed (8% of the entire population malabsorbed 500 ml whole milk, whereas 33.33% malabsorbed 25 g lactose) and induces intolerance in fewer subjects. We conclude that milk rather than pure lactose must be used in clinical evaluation of lactose malabsorption and intolerance.

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