RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—People suffering from lactose intolerance have to give up some of the more decadent joys in life, ice cream, for instance, and they also give up other dairy products that provide a rich variety of nutrients. But at a recent conference assembled by the National Institutes of Health, a panel of experts said that such sacrifices aren't necessary, and could even be putting one's health at risk. The Consensus Development Conference on Lactose Intolerance and Health was organized to examine the latest research on lactose intolerance and how the condition could affect other health outcomes, as well as how it can be managed.
THE DETAILS: First, the panel noted that it's difficult to estimate the number of people suffering from lactose intolerance, a condition characterized by gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea after eating dairy products, due to a lack of representative studies and adequate diagnostic tests. They add that many people who lack lactase, the enzyme needed to digest the lactose in dairy products, don't exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance, whereas others who diagnose themselves as being lactose intolerant often have appropriate levels of lactase and wouldn't always qualify as clinically intolerant. The problem with patients and physicians relying on self-diagnosed lactose intolerance is that many people avoid dairy unnecessarily, putting themselves at risk for osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency—which may in turn put them at greater risk of prostate, colon, breast, and esophageal cancers. And some of the newer research suggests that calcium from dairy products could lower blood pressure and reduce colon polyps, possibly leading to lower rates of colon cancer.
In fact, said the panel, avoiding dairy products isn't even necessary for lactose-intolerant individuals. The experts concluded that someone with lactose intolerance could tolerate as much as 50 grams of lactose, the same amount found in a quart of milk, per day before exhibiting symptoms.
Read on for more ways to cope with lactose intolerance.
Published on: March 9, 2010
Updated on: March 11, 2010