Lactose enhances mineral absorption in infancy

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1983 May;2(2):288-94.


To determine if lactose promotes the intestinal absorption of calcium and other minerals by infants, metabolic balance studies were performed with infants fed two formulas nearly identical in composition except for carbohydrate. One contained only lactose and the other contained sucrose and corn starch hydrolysate. Each of six normal infants had two balance studies performed with each formula in alternating sequence. When lactose was the carbohydrate, net absorption and net retention of calcium were significantly greater than when lactose was not present in the formula. Absorptions of magnesium and manganese were also significantly enhanced by lactose. Absorptions of copper and zinc were somewhat greater (not statistically significant) when lactose was present, whereas absorption of iron was not affected. Absorption of phosphorus was not different, but urinary excretion was less when the lactose containing formula was fed and, hence, net retention of phosphorus was significantly enhanced. These results confirm findings from animal studies and previous human studies and show that, in infants, lactose has a significant and sustained promoting effect on absorption of calcium and other minerals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Lactose / administration & dosage
  • Lactose / physiology*
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Male
  • Manganese / metabolism
  • Minerals / metabolism*
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Starch / administration & dosage
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Minerals
  • Phosphorus
  • Manganese
  • Sucrose
  • Starch
  • Magnesium
  • Lactose
  • Calcium