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Lactose intolerance

“Self-diagnosis is risky”

Short interview with Sarah Coe, a nutritionist at the British Nutrition Foundation in London.

Sarah Coe

What is a lactose intolerance?

A primary lactose intolerance is an inherited decline in the production of lactase in the body as a result of ageing. Alternatively, the intolerance may occur temporarily due to damage to the intestine cause by infections or other diseases of the digestive system. This is then a secondary lactose intolerance.

Is the number of lactose-intolerance people in Europe rising, or is it only the number of lactose-free products on the supermarket shelves which is rising?

The lactose-free products on offer vary considerably from one another in Europe, due to different guidelines. The reason for this is that every country is permitted to determine the maximum lactose content in products described as “lactose-free” for itself. Because, despite the title, they often do contain a small percentage of lactose. The permitted value varies between zero milligrams in Ireland and 100 milligrams of lactose per 100 grams of product in Hungary. Only for baby foods is there a pan-European regulation which states that “lactose- free” products must contain less than 10 milligrams of lactose per 100 kilocalories.

Is lactose intolerance a trend in Europe?

Self-diagnosis is certainly gaining in popularity, but research has shown that most people who think they are lactose- intolerant are not. These false assessments lead to many people removing dairy products, and therefore also important nutrients such as calcium and iodine, from their diet. Professional diagnosis by a specialist is therefore essential, as this can also exclude other causes of the symptoms, such as a milk allergy or an irritable bowel.

Headerphoto: © Fotolia - glisic_albina

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