Categorized | Lactose in the News

Lactose intolerance: why most people can’t digest dairy – The Week UK

A new study associated with ancient DNA shows that the ability to digest milk may have become common only relatively recently in Europe.

Humans are able to digest milk past childhood only because of a genetic adaptation, and the research suggests the gene for breaking down lactose in milk was still rare in the Bronze Age, the BBC reports. The majority of people in the world have still not developed this trait and so are unable to digest dairy products.

What is lactose and why are some people intolerant to it?

Lactose is the main sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Those who have lactose intolerance find it hard to digest the sugar, usually because their own small intestine doesn’t make sufficient lactase, the enzyme which digests lactose.

Who is affected?

Lactose intolerance is an extremely common digestive problem, but affects some ethnic groups more than others. Within Britain, the condition is most widespread among the Asian and African-Caribbean communities, according to the NHS. Only one person in 50 of northern European ancestry has some degree of lactose intolerance, while most individuals from China have the condition. Scientists believe this because places in Africa and Asia historically had little access to milk, so individuals may not have evolved the ability to digest lactose because there was no benefit in being able to do so.

What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance?

Between half an hour and two hours after eating food or drink containing lactose, the sufferer may have one of the subsequent symptoms: flatulence, diarrhoea, bloated tummy or stomach cramps. In some cases signs can be severe.

Is it the same as a dairy allergy?

Number Milk allergy is the second most common food allergy after peanuts. It really is an allergic reaction to cow’s dairy and happens when the immune system mistakes the particular proteins in cow’s milk to become a threat. In response, it releases chemical substances that trigger the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. These include wheezing or vomiting, but can also cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Lactose intolerance tends to influence teenagers and adults, while dairy allergy is more common in young children.

Will there be a cure?

No, but limiting or eliminating foods that contain lactose will manage the symptoms. The NHS also recommends lactase substitutes – drops or pills that can be taken with meals to improve lactose digestion.

Most people with lactose intolerance are able to consume small amounts of lactose without obtaining sick, so may not need to reduce dairy products out of their diet overall. Eliminating all dairy products will mean an individual needs to get vitamin D and calcium mineral from other sources. Food high in calciferol include fatty fish, beef liver organ and eggs, while green abundant vegetables, soya beans, tofu and nuts all contain high degrees of calcium.

Always seek advice from your GP before making major modifications to your diet.

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