Introduction: Growth faltering is a common health issue in the developing countries. At times we are unable to attribute this growth faltering to lack of adequate nutrients in food or ongoing disease conditions alone. With this study we aim to assess the possibility of the existence of subclinical malabsorption in children with undernutrition. Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted on a sample of 161 children from a birth cohort of 377 children who were under follow up from birth for health and disease in three of the urban slums of Vellore. The prevalence of small intestinal enteropathy, as assessed by a 5 hour urinary d-xylose excretion test, was compared between undernourished and well-nourished children. Correlation between undernutrition, d-xylose malabsorption and previous documented illnesses including viral, bacterial or parasitic infections/ infestations was also studied. Results: Xylose test result was abnormal in 41% (25 of 61) of undernourished children as against 26% (26 of 100) of well-nourished children, with p value of 0.047 and Odds ratio of 1.976 with 95% confidence interval between 1.003 and 3.895. Conclusion: There is a statistically significant association between undernutrition and small intestinal enteropathy.
Keywords: Malabsorption, Enteropathy, Undernutrition, Xylose absorption test, Intestinal Infections.