HBCU Writers's Project
For Immediate Release
January 20, 2010
Contact Information

Lorna Love
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

(BPRW) Blacks Suffer Most from Lactose Intolerance

(BLACK PR WIRE/FAMU-TALLAHASSEE) – Among those over the age of five, approximately 90-95 percent of black individuals throughout the world will have partial or complete lactose intolerance. Milk intolerance occurs when lactase, the enzyme required to metabolize the milk sugar lactose, decreases or becomes absent in the gastrointestinal tract. Children are born with the correctly functioning enzyme. However, when a child reaches around the age of five years old, for reasons unknown, black children partially or completely lose the lactase enzyme.

Children below the age of five, who have severe bouts of diarrhea or another severe illness, may also develop temporary or permanent lactose intolerance. Because the level of lactase deficiency varies between individuals, some will be able to drink more milk before symptoms occur than others. Some individuals may be able to learn to limit their intake of milk to their body's specific and individual limit. However, most people will need to avoid all lactose-containing products.

In infants and young children, calcium may need to be supplemented. If cutting out lactose containing products is out of the question, a tablet is available that can be taken with a lactose-containing food to supply the required enzyme for breaking down lactose. Dr. Hetal Karson, a specialist at Atlanta's Emory University, said lactose intolerance probably hasn't gotten a lot of attention because many policy makers and media members are Caucasian, and don't think of it as a common problem. “It’s Caucasian bias,” said Karson.

Last year, the National Medical Association issued a special report funded by the National Dairy Council on the role of dairy in the diet of blacks. The report stated 44 percent of black adults said they eat one of more servings of dairy each day; only 66 percent of black adults get the daily recommended amounts of calcium. The group recommended blacks to consume three to four servings a day of low-fat milk, cheese and/or yogurt, while the government recommends for the general public to consume only three.

The group felt that by making a higher recommendation, blacks might meet the minimum guidelines, said Dr. Winston Price, a New York pediatrician and co-author of the report. Price said the report was encouraged by recent research that suggested dairy products could help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and other chronic diseases among blacks. Intolerance adverse reactions are not life-threatening but may result in life-long discomfort.