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Vitamin D levels unaffected in children with lactose intolerance, according to recent study

Posted on: November 4, 2013   by  Vitamin D Council


A new study shows lactose intolerance has no significant effect on stature or vitamin D status among children.

Lactose intolerance (LI) is characterized by the inability to digest and make use of dairy products. Dairy products contain a large source of calcium, which is important for bone growth and strength. Milk is also often fortified with vitamin D, because it is necessary to help absorb calcium in the gut.

Many studies have observed the effects of LI on calcium intake, levels and absorption, yet few have taken into account vitamin D levels among those with LI. For children, fortified milk provides some vitamin D. So in theory, if LI children are avoiding fortified milk, they might have low vitamin D levels.

In this new cross-sectional study, researchers compared vitamin D levels and overall stature between prepubertal children with LI and children without LI. In the study, 38 children with LI and 49 without LI enrolled.

Height was measured using mid-parental target height and blood samples were taken to determine vitamin D levels.

Researchers found no significant difference in serum vitamin D levels between children with LI and children without LI. Furthermore, they found no significant difference in height between LI children and the control group.

The researchers attributed this finding to the fact that sun exposure accounts for most vitamin D intake as opposed to food sources. Thus, if fortified milk contributes at all to vitamin D status in children, it is likely a small contribution.

A few limitations were cited in the study. The researchers stated that the cross-sectional design limits determination of causation on weight and vitamin D and stature. The study also sampled a small population size which may have attributed to the lack of significance. Additionally, the study didn’t measure dietary intake.

“We have shown that vitamin D deficiency is not a central feature of LI in prepubertal children,” the researchers stated. “Therefore, we concluded that LI does not have a significant effect on the overall stature or vitamin D status of affected children.”


Setty-Shah, N et. al. Lactose Intolerance Lack of Evidence for Short Stature or Vitamin D Deficiency in Prepubertal Children. PLOSOne, 2013.

3 Responses to Vitamin D levels unaffected in children with lactose intolerance, according to recent study

  1. Tom Weishaar

    Finding a significant difference with this number of participants can be interesting. But this study neither found a significant difference nor provided a power analysis to show they had enough subjects to find a significant difference if there was one. In other words, the study doesn’t advance what we know at all.

  2. Rita and Misty

    Hi Tom–At the risk of sounding facetious (and believe me, I am not), we do know that the majority of us are at least insufficient in vitamin D..and most likely deficient.

    But it is a complicated matter. I have recently become a fan of the food fortification idea. Yet perhaps food fortification wouldn’t solve the entire problem.

    And let’s remember that nature intended for us to receive sunshine…and now we live in a concrete jungle….

    Does oral supplementation take the place of sunlight? Probably not.

    Again, it is complicated…

  3. [email protected]

    Should be no surprise in the US (the study was done in the US)
    Milk (lactose) is not essential for US children to get some Vitamin D
    Virtually all US milk-substitute drinks are now voluntarily fortified with Vitamin D.
    Most of the lactose-free milk is fortified with Vitamin D
    Some of fruit juices for children are fortified with Vitamin D.

    That said, the vitamin D per child in the US is < 240 IU average
    See chart in tinyurl.com/amIdeficient

    The govt recommended bare minimum is 600 IU
    Many studies show great benefits when children get 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily

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