News article

Potential positive and negative effects of lactose in undernourished children

Posted:  Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Milk lactose to treat undernutrition in children

Lactose is the principal carbohydrate present in milk. It provides about 40% of the daily energy intake for exclusively breastfed infants. However, lactose intolerance may result in varying degrees of abdominal discomfort, bloating, diarrhoea, and flatulence. A study published in the journal Food and Nutrition Bulletin described the potential positive and negative effects of lactose in the treatment of undernourished infants.

Grenov et al. conducted a literature review using PUBMED and Web of Science, up to July 2015. They collected information on the role of lactose in correcting malnutrition in undernourished infants and young children.

Milk is the vital source of nutrients for infants and young children. High lactose content might support growth by contributing to improved absorption of minerals and providing a prebiotic effect on the gut microbiome.

The cause of concern in undernourished infants is lactose malabsorption giving rise to lactose intolerance. Low levels of lactose in therapeutic foods are well tolerated by such vulnerable children. However, lactose-free foods are a better choice for children with secondary lactase deficiency due to severe diarrhoea or enteropathy.

Lactose is a good source of energy in infants and young children. The beneficial and detrimental effects of lactose should be considered while adding it to food products designed for undernourished children.

Future research may be directed towards defining a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of lactose in undernourished children. The variation in response to lactose needs to be investigated in children of different age groups and with different degrees of enteropathy.

News Source: Grenov B, Briend A, Sangild PT, et al. Undernourished children and milk lactose. Food and nutrition bulletin. 2016 Feb 18:0379572116629024.