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Editorial July/August 2000, Volume 14 Issue 7: 573-574

Symptoms of lactose intolerance - Forget about the cause?

JP Allard

A majority of the world's population maldigests lactose, and the resultant lactose malabsorption may cause symptoms of flatulence, diarrhea and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms are affected by several factors (1). In addition to the amount of lactose ingested, dietary factors such as concomitant meal ingestion, fermented and nonfermented products, fat content and food consistency have been shown to influence symptoms. In addition, gastrointestinal physiological factors such as gastrointestinal transit, intestinal lactase activity, visceral sensitivity, composition and adaptation of colonic microflora, underlying functional bowel disorders and symptom perception play a role. Taking into account the complex interactions among all of these variables, it is not surprising to find marked inter- and intraindividual differences in symptoms of lactose intolerance. This makes the field of lactose intolerance more challenging to study and may explain the variability of individual response to different dietary manipulations or therapeutic interventions.

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