Lactose-Intolerant Still Need Dairy in Diets

Chuck ZimmermanHealth, Milk

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that those who are lactose-intolerant should still consume some dairy products, such as yogurt or cheese, to ensure adequate calcium intake, especially in children.

Staying away from dairy, which is the richest source of calcium in a traditional Western diet, could be having long-term effects on U.S. children’s health. Most older children and teenagers fail to meet their daily calcium requirements, according to a previous AAP study. Calcium intake in childhood and adolescence helps to build bone mass and is thought to protect against osteoporosis. Inadequate calcium is linked with a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and other problems.

Most lactose-intolerant people can consume some amount of dairy without suffering stomach upset and may be needlessly avoiding the whole food group, according to the new report, released this week. “It’s OK to take some dairy if you’re intolerant,” says Melvin B. Heyman, a member of the AAP committee on nutrition. “Most people do tolerate some degree of lactose-containing products.” Many parents wrongly treat lactose intolerance in their children as a food allergy, which it isn’t, says Dr. Heyman. The intolerance doesn’t get worse over time if the child drinks milk, and most children can drink one or two glasses of milk a day without having any symptoms, he says.