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Lactose Intolerance is Normal in Adults

Updated on June 15, 2012

Most adults are lactose intolerance. This is normal. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products.

Wikipedia say ...

"Lactose intolerance is considered the normal state for most adults on a worldwide scale and is not typically considered to be a disease condition"[1]

According to Dr. Neal Barnard ...

"Lactose intolerance was once thought to be an abnormality but is now known to be the biological norm." [page 48 of Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes]

Lactose intolerance comes about because of lack of enzyme called lactase which help digests lactose. Although most adults are lactose intolerant, most babies are not lactose intolerant. Babies will have this enzyme lactase because they are able make it. However, starting at age five (and can be as early as age two or as late as age eight), the child will start to become lactose intolerance due to lower levels of lactase.

About 75% of the world's population will have decrease ability to digest lactose as adults. In African and Asian population, it could be as high as 90%. The ability to digest lactose varies across the world. The Swedish and the Scandinavian countries can tolerate lactose well. Whereas the Asians and American Indians can not. According to one data, 2% of the Swedish examined was lactose intolerance and 100% of the American Indians examined was lactose intolerance (although the sample size was quite small in that study).

Those who can tolerate lactose as adult have a condition known as lactose persistance.[2] About 30% to 40% of the world's adult population can still produce the enzyme lactase to digest lactose.

Lactose intolerance is not a disease condition. If adults do not drink milk or dairy related products, there would be no lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is not necessarily dangerous. And people can still drink milk as adults if they do not experience any overt symptoms. They just won't be able to digest it very well and may experience gas and bloating and digestive upset after consuming milk. The overuse of antibiotics contributes in part to the lactose intolerance.

Lactose Tolerance Due to Mutation

The real question is why is a minority of the people lactose tolerant? This is due to an evolutionary mutation that came about around the same time as domestication of livestock.[4]

The University of Chicago Medical Center blog write ...

"But lactose tolerance is a genetic marvel, an exclusive human trait facilitated by a genetic mutation that only appeared in the last 10,000 years"[5]

The book Nourishing Traditions writes ...

"In humans, a mutation or recessive gene allows the continued production of lactase in some individuals." [page 33]

Adults are Not Meant To Drink Milk

Did nature intend for human adults to drink cow's milk? Some people say no. Some health authorities recommend that adults decreased their dairy product intake because of lactose intolerance and casein allergy, of which both conditions may not be obvious to the person who have it. Dr. Donald Abrams is one who believes that we should decrease dairy products. In the video of his talk about nutrition and cancer, he says that lactose tolerance is due to a mutation.

Where in the animal kingdom do you ever see the adult population drink milk? Humans are the only specie where the adult population drink milk after weaning. One possible exception is the domesticated cat. But they are drinking milk only because we are feeding it milk.

In the animal kingdom, only babies drink milk because they cannot hunt for themselves yet or do not have to teeth yet. And even so, they only drink the milk of their own species. Humans are the only specie where they drink the milk of another specie. And in fact, many parts of the world consider cow's milk unfit for human consumption.

The book Don't Drink Your Milk says ...

"most particularly in East Asia, Africa, and South America, people regard cow's milk as unfit for consumption by adult human beings." [page 4]

For Strong Bones

If we do not drink milk, how do we get calcium for strong bones? The media and marketing would like for you to think that getting calcium from milk is the only way to have strong bones. That is not true.

First, you can get calcium from many other foods such as the following ...

  • Dark leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach
  • Certain seafood such such as sardines, oyster, mussels, prawns, and even salmon
  • Other foods such as broccoli, beans, and almonds.

Second, you need more than just calcium for strong bones. You need vitamin D and magnesium as well. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. In fact, the body cannot absorb calcium without the aid of vitamin D, which the body produces when sunlight hits the skin. Your bones are the body's magnesium storage. Magnesium is a critical mineral that is necessary for many bodily functions and is maintained at a strict level within the bloodstream.


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