Lactose intolerance – a widespread problem
Across the world, an estimated 68% of people are lactose intolerant. That means they can’t digest lactase, a sugar found in milk. Prevalence varies according to ethnicity. It’s highest among people of African, Asian, Hispanic and Native American descent. While lactose intolerance isn’t dangerous, its symptoms can be very unpleasant. They include stomach cramps, bloating and gas, but the severity of the symptoms varies. So some lactose-intolerant people experience diarrhea, nausea and even vomiting after consuming dairy. One way for them to avoid these symptoms is to reduce their intake of dairy or cut it out altogether. But dairy products play a key nutritional role in many diets, as shown in a recent study of food-based dietary guidelines across the world. Many recognize dairy as a source of multiple essential vitamins and minerals and/or high-quality protein. Yet people with high degrees of lactose intolerance can’t access these benefits. Isn’t it time for a rethink?