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Think You're Lactose Intolerant? Maybe Not
Date:2/24/2010

Many who avoid dairy products might actually tolerate them, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) - Many people who think they're lactose intolerant may not be.

This suggestion, released Wednesday in a U.S. National Institutes of Health draft consensus statement, could pave the way for more people to eat more dairy products, thus helping to ensure they get adequate nutrition in their diet.

Not enough data is available to estimate the prevalence of true lactose intolerance in the United States, the report stated, but it's likely the numbers are lower than those reported, said Natalie J. Miller, a member of the panel that issued the draft statement and a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, at a Wednesday teleconference.

People with lactose intolerance usually are told to avoid milk and milk-containing products, but this can deprive them of needed nutrients, particularly calcium and vitamin D.

"Particularly in children and adolescents, it's very difficult for them to receive enough calcium and vitamin D if they avoid diary completely. The same thing may hold true for adults," said Dr. Frederick J. Suchy, chairman of the conference preceding the statement and professor and chief of pediatric hepatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

"Vitamin D and calcium have important effects, for certain for bone health, and may have implications in other areas such as cardiovascular health, hypertension and maybe even colon cancer," he said.

Lactose is a sugar found in both human and cow's milk.

"In order to be absorbed as a nutrient, lactose has to be digested by lactase, an enzyme present in the lining of the small intestine," Suchy explained. "It's well recognized that during the period of suckling in the infant, levels of lactase in the intestine are at their highest in order to be able to digest and absor
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