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Lactose intolerance not as common as previously thought


The prevalence of lactose intolerance may be much lower than previously estimated, says a study recently published in Nutrition Today.

The study, which was sponsored by the National Dairy Council (NDC), used data from a national sample of three ethnic groups and found that the overall prevalence rate of self-reported lactose intolerance is 12 per cent, with 7.72 per cent of European Americans, 10.05 per cent of Hispanic Americans and 19.5 per cent of African Americans who consider themselves lactose intolerant.

Previous figures overestimated

The new findings, says the NDC in a release, indicate that previous estimates of lactose intolerance incidence – based on the incidence of lactose maldigestion – may be overestimated by wide margins.

Previous studies have found lactose maldigestion, or low lactase activity in the gut, to occur in approximately 15 per cent of European Americans, 50 per cent of Mexican Americans and 80 per cent of African Americans.

The new study shows that lactose intolerance, based on self-reported data, may actually occur far less frequently than presumed.

Dairy may make up nutrient shortfall

The NDC says increasing daily consumption of dairy can be an effective strategy for ensuring adequate intake of shortfall nutrients (such as calcium, magnesium and potassium).

And those consumers who do experience symptoms of lactose intolerance should know there are several practical solutions that can allow for consumption of milk and milk products.

Consumers prefer lactose-free vs. dairy substitutes

In fact, adds the NDC, according to a recent study in the Journal of Sensory Studies, adults who identified themselves as lactose intolerant reported a higher liking of lactose-free cow’s milk compared to non-dairy, soy-based substitute beverage.