Childhood Diarrhea and Lactose


Childhood Diarrhea and Lactose

Reference: Brown KH, Peerson JM & Fontaine O: Use of nonhuman milks in the dietary management of young children with acute diarrhea: A meta-analysis of clinical trials. Pediatrics 93 (1): 17-27, 1994.

Summary: Lactose-containing and lactose-free milk or other products, as well as different dilutions, were compared in this meta-analysis. Various outcome measures were compared, including treatment failure, diarrhea duration, stool quantity, number of bowel movements, and weight gain. Potentially confounding variables included other foods given to treated patients, degree of dehydration at time of entry into the study, and the year the study was conducted. The year was important -- after 1985 routine use of oral rehydration and continued feeding during diarrhea began.

Overall, the study found that there was a significantly higher rate of treatment failure in non-dehydrated children who consumed lactose than in those who did not consume lactose. However, if oral rehydration and continued feeding were taken into account, this difference was not significant. Lactose intake was related to a slight increase in stool output and duration of diarrhea. There was insufficient data to assess effect on weight gain.

Undiluted milk or other lactose-containing formulas were associated with a slightly increased risk of treatment failure compared to diluted formulas. Undiluted milk intake did cause a significant benefit in terms of weight gain compared to diluted milk intake. Of apparently minor clinical relevance was the finding that undiluted lactose-containing milk intake was associated with increased frequency and quantity of stool. There was no significant difference in diarrhea duration between children given diluted versus undiluted milks.

The authors conclude that almost all children can continue to receive lactose during acute diarrhea. However, severely malnourished or dehydrated children or those with previous treatment failures may have adverse clinical outcomes if fed lactose during diarrheal disease.

Natural Product Research Consultants, Inc.

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