This article considers the scientific evidence on the prevalence and management of verified lactose intolerance and the growing misperception that dairy foods should be avoided because ethnic populations cannot tolerate them. Healthcare professionals, in particular, must understand why eliminating dairy foods is rarely necessary and is generally undesirable. The genetically programmed ability to digest the milk sugar lactose normally declines throughout childhood in all ethnic groups. Only rarely does lactase nonpersistence result in verifiable lactose intolerance. The intolerance—gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal cramping—is easily managed when it occurs and is not a barrier to the consumption of 2 to 3 servings of calcium-rich dairy foods, as encouraged by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Barbara J. Moore, PhD, is President and Chief Executive Officer of Shape Up America!, a national campaign founded by former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1994. Dr Moore holds a BA from Skidmore College and a master's and a doctorate from Columbia University and received her postdoctoral training in nutrition and physiology at University of California at Davis. She has an unusual breadth of experience in academia, private industry, and government that she brings to the leadership of Shape Up America!
Corresponding author: Barbara J. Moore, PhD, Shape Up America!, N4005 County Rd U, Portage, WI 53901 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).