No evidence for an effect of lactase deficiency on bone mass in pre‐ or postmenopausal women

Charles W. Slemenda, Joe C. Christian, Siu Hui, Joseph Fitzgerald, Conrad C. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations


The potential role for lactase deficiency in the development of low bone mass was examined in 342 adult female twins. Diminished lactase activity, defined as greater than 20 ppm increase in expired hydrogen at 2 or 2.5 h after an oral lactose load, was examined: (1) by comparing bone mass between members of twin pairs discordant for lactase activity; (2) by examining the linear association between bone mass and total expired hydrogen gas; and (3) by comparing all lactase-deficient individuals to those with persistent lactase activity. Among members of discordant (primarily DZ) pairs, the lactase-deficient member had greater bone mass 54% of the time. The correlations between the increase in expired hydrogen and bone mass at various sites were between -0.02 (femoral neck) and 0.11 (midshaft radius), suggesting no association between these variables. Finally, all lactase-deficient subjects were compared with those with normal lactase activity, regardless of twin status, and at each skeletal site the differences in bone mass were 1% or less. Thus, all primary hypotheses were not supported by these data; that is, in this large sample we could find no evidence of a detrimental effect of lactase deficiency on adult bone mass. However, baseline expired hydrogen was consistently and positively associated with bone mass at all sites, independently of age, suggesting the possibility that some aspect of intestinal function related to the activity of bacterial anaerobes may be positively associated with bone mass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1367-1371
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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