Lactose absorption capacity was estimated in 820 apparently healthy, well nourished, Hungarian adults and adolescents (560 females, 260 males, aged 16-54 years) using a field version of the lactose tolerance test with breath hydrogen determination. The test identified 497 lactose absorbers with low, and 323 lactose malabsorbers with high hydrogen excretion 120-150 min after an oral load of 50 g lactose. The prevalence of lactose malabsorption in the general Hungarian sample (n=535) was 37%. In subgroups from the western and eastern Hungarian plains, frequency of lactose malabsorption reached almost 30%. It tended to be higher in Upper Hungary (ca. 40%) and in subjects stemming from former Hungarian areas in the Carpathian bend. Lactose malabsorption in a Hungarian ethnic subgroup, the Matyo (n=172), did not differ significantly from that in the general population. Among Romai ("Gypsies", n=113), the prevalence of lactose malabsorption was significantly higher (56%). Awareness of milk intolerance was significantly more frequent, and severe symptoms of lactose intolerance during the test occurred almost exclusively in lactose malabsorbers.
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