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Health Consequences of Lactose Intolerance

Research shows that lactose intolerant individuals can have a higher prevalence and risk for osteoporosis, decreased bone mineral density and hypertension due to a lack of adequate milk consumption.

These health outcomes are attributed towards dairy exclusion diets and whether or not the individual can replace vital nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is important for the growth and development of bones, as well as for maintaining bone density. Evidence suggests that certain age groups, such as teenagers, may be at increased risk for deficient bone growth if their diets are lacking in calcium or vitamin D. As a group, teenagers tend to not take in enough calcium to meet daily requirements and this is worsened by dairy avoidance in individuals who consider themselves lactose intolerant. One important distinction to make is that lactose intolerance does not necessarily affect calcium absorption in the intestines. Therefore, it is limited calcium intake that can be attributed to poor bone health rather than lactose intolerance itself. Likewise, in older individuals, low calcium intake rather than deficient absorption is most likely the cause for bone loss. For individuals already at a greater risk for osteoporosis, dairy exclusion diets worsen the problem. These people include women of all ages and specific racial/ethnic groups.

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Szilagyi A, Nathwani U, Vinokuroff C et al. The effect of lactose maldigestion on the relationship between dairy food intake and colorectal cancer: a systematic review. Nutr Cancer. 2006; 55(2):141-150.
Suarez FL, Adshead J, Furne JK and Levitt MD. Amer. J Clin. Nutrition. 1998; 68:1118-22.
McCarron DA, Heaney, RP. Estimated healthcare savings associated with adequate dairy food intake. Am J Hypertens. 2004; 17 (1):88-97.
National Institutes of Health Consensus Develolopment Conference Statement: http://consensus.nih.gov/2010/images/lactose/lactose_finalstatement.pdf

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