Lactose malabsorption and intolerance: What should be the best clinical management?

World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Jun 6;3(3):29-33. doi: 10.4292/wjgpt.v3.i3.29.


Lactose malabsorption (LM) is the incomplete hydrolysis of lactose due to lactase deficiency, which may occur as a primary disorder or secondary to other intestinal diseases. Primary adult-type hypolactasia is an autosomal recessive condition resulting from the physiological decline of lactase activity. Different methods have been used to diagnose LM. Lactose breath test represents the most reliable technique. A recent consensus conference has proposed the more physiological dosage of 25 g of lactose and a standardized procedure for breath testing. Recently a new genetic test, based on C/T13910 polymorphism, has been proposed for the diagnosis of adult-type hypolactasia, complementing the role of breath testing. LM represents a well-known cause of abdominal symptoms although only some lactose malabsorbers are also intolerants. Diagnosing lactose intolerance is not straightforward. Many non-malabsorber subjects diagnose themselves as being lactose intolerant. Blind lactose challenge studies should be recommended to obtain objective results. Besides several studies indicate that subjects with lactose intolerance can ingest up to 15 g of lactose with no or minor symptoms. Therefore a therapeutic strategy consists of a lactose restricted diet avoiding the nutritional disadvantages of reduced calcium and vitamin intake.Various pharmacological options are also available. Unfortunately there is insufficient evidence that these therapies are effective. Further double-blind studies are needed to demonstrate treatment effectiveness in lactose intolerance.

Keywords: Lactose intolerance; Lactose malabsorption; Therapeutic options.