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J Natl Med Assoc. 2009 Oct;101(10 Suppl):5S-23S.

Lactose intolerance and African Americans: implications for the consumption of appropriate intake levels of key nutrients.


Lactose intolerance is a complex condition that is complicated by cultural beliefs and perceptions about the consumption of dairy products. These attitudes about dairy may contribute to inadequate intake of key nutrients that may impact conditions that contribute to health disparities in African Americans. While a complex health problem, lactose intolerance is easy to treat. However, no treatment can improve the body's ability to produce lactase. Yet, symptoms can be controlled through dietary strategies. This position paper emphasizes the importance of using patient and provider-level strategies in order to reduce the risks to the health of African Americans that may accrue as a result of dairy nutrient deficiency. Evaluation and assessment of interventions tested is critical so that evidence-based approaches to addressing dairy nutrient deficiency and lactose Intolerance can be created. Lastly, it is essential for physicians to communicate key messages to their patients. Since dairy nutrients address important health concerns, the amelioration of lactose intolerance is an investment in health. Lactose intolerance is common, is easy to treat, and can be managed. It is possible to consume dairy even in the face of a history of maldigestion or lactose intolerant issues. Gradually increasing lactose in the diet--drinking small milk portions with food, eating yogurt, and consuming cheese--are effective strategies for managing lactose intolerance and meeting optimal dairy needs.

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