Lactose malabsorption and recurrent abdominal pain in italian children

R. Ceriani, E. Zuccato, M. Fontana, G. Zuin, L. Ferrari, N. Principi, S. Paccagnini, E. Mussini

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The role of lactose malabsorption (LM) was investigated in 32 children (mean age 8.13 ± 2.46 years) with recurrent abdominal pain (RAP). LM was detected in 75% of them by a lactose breath hydrogen test (LBHT) after a 2-g/kg (max 50-g) load. Of the 18 malabsorbers who participated in a 3-month lactose-free diet (LFD), 14 were judged “improved” and reported lower pain frequency (p <0.001). The malabsorbers who improved versus the not improved had comparable past lactose ingestion but were distinguishable on the basis of their lactose absorption capacity (0.36 vs. 0.81 g/kg: P <0.01), as subsequently determined by multiple LBHTs with 25-, 12.5-, and 6-g loads. The ratio between past lactose ingestion and lactose absorption was 1.89 in the improved and 0.55 in the not improved groups (p <0.01), retrospectively indicating lactose as a possible cause of the symptoms in the improved group. The reintroduction of lactose in amounts not exceeding the absorption capacity into the diet of each malabsorber who had improved with LFD caused relapse in none of the 14 subjects monitored for 2-6 months. In conclusion, LM seems an important cause of symptoms in Italian children with RAP. Assessment of the lactose absorption threshold of each subject of LBHTs provides a basis for reintroduction of “calibrated” amounts of lactose-containing foods (e.g., milk) into the diet.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-857
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1988


  • Breath hydrogen test
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Lactose malabsorption
  • Recurrent abdominal pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Food Science


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