Lactose malabsorption and intolerance in the elderly

M. Di Stefano, G. Veneto, S. Malservisi, A. Strocchi, G. R. Corazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lactase activity declines with age in rats, but it is not clear whether this model is also shared by humans. Few studies have evaluated lactose intolerance and malabsorption in the elderly and no definite conclusions can be drawn. The aim of our study was therefore to verify the impact of age on lactose intolerance and malabsorption. Methods: Eighty-four healthy subjects took part in the study. Thirty-three were 74 years. All the subjects underwent a preliminary evaluation of intestinal gas production capacity and oro-cecal transit time by H2/CH4 breath test after lactulose. After a 3-day period, an H2/CH4 breath test after lactose was performed. The occurrence of intolerance symptoms during the test and in the 24 h after the test was recorded. Results: Breath H2 and CH4 excretion parameters at fasting and after lactulose did not differ between the three groups. Cumulative breath H2 excretion after lactose was higher in subjects >74 years than in subjects 74 years, the prevalence of lactose malabsorption was higher than in the other two groups, while no significant difference was observed between subjects 74 years. No significant difference was found between the latter two groups. No difference was found between the three groups in terms of daily calcium intake and a significant negative correlation between symptom score and daily calcium intake was only found in the group of subjects aged

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1274-1278
Number of pages5
JournalScandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Elderly
  • H-breath test
  • Intestinal gas production
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Lactose malabsorption
  • Methane production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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