Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Lactose malabsorption in Polynesian and white children in the south west Pacific studied by breath hydrogen technique.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 10 October 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:876
  1. J M Seakins,
  2. R B Elliott,
  3. C M Quested,
  4. A Matatumua
  1. Department of Paediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


    Lactose malabsorption was studied by a breath hydrogen technique in 139 Samoan and 68 white schoolchildren. The Samoans were studied in four locations, two in Western Samoa and two in New Zealand, and the white children in both the Cook Islands and New Zealand. The prevalence of malabsorption varied with location: for Samoans it ranged from 41% to 60% in Western Samoa and 0% to 35% in New Zealand; white children had rates of 27% in the Cook Islands and 5% in New Zealand. Environmental factors rather than genetic factors are likely to play the main part in initiating if not perpetuating lactose malabsorption. In both races lactose malabsorption had no effect on the acceptance of, consumption of, and number of gastrointestinal symptoms caused by milk and milk biscuits. Children who had symptoms after consuming a particular dairy product were more likely to say they disliked it than those who reported no symptoms.