Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Gastroenterology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Lactase non-persistent genotype influences milk consumption and gastrointestinal symptoms in Northern Russians

Yulia Khabarova1*, Suvi Tornianen2, Sari Tuomisto3, Irma Järvelä2, Pekka Karhunen3, Mauri Isokoski4 and Kari Mattila5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine, Northern State Medical University, Arkhangelsk 163000, Russia and Medical School, Tampere University 33014, Finland

2 Department of Medical Genetics, University of Helsinki, Helsinki 00014, Finland

3 Medical School, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital 33014, Finland

4 School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere 33014, Finland

5 Medical School, University of Tampere, 33014 and Center of General Practice, Hospital District of Pirkanmaa, Tampere 33521, Finland

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Gastroenterology 2011, 11:124  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-11-124

Published: 13 November 2011



Milk is an important source of nutrients. The consumption of milk, however, may cause abdominal complaints in lactose intolerant individuals. The frequency of -13910C/C genotype is known to be high among Northern Russians, exceeding the prevalence in northern Europe. In our study we tested two hypotheses: 1) subjects with lactase non-persistent genotype (-13910C/C) have more gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms associated with milk 2) subjects with lactase non-persistence avoid using milk.


In total, 518 students aged 17 to 26 years were randomly selected from different departments in the Northern State Medical University (NSMU) for genotyping the lactase activity-defining -13910C/T variant. All subjects filled in a questionnaire covering their personal data, self-reported GI symptoms and milk consumption habits.


Northern Russians consume very small amounts of milk daily. Among carriers of the lactase non-persistent (LNP) genotype there were 10 percentage units of milk-consumers fewer than among lactase-persistent (LP) subjects (p = 0.03). Complaints of GI disorders caused by milk were different between the genotypes (p = 0.02). Among all types of food analyzed only milk was associated with increased GI symptoms among subjects with the LNP genotype (OR = 1.95, CI 1.03-3.69)


Subjects with -13910C/C have more GI symptoms from milk. Subjects with lactase non-persistent genotype avoid using milk. In the case of increasing milk consumption symptoms may increase the need for medical consultation. It is thus important either for people themselves or for health care staff to be aware of lactase persistence/non-persistence.