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Lactose Intolerance and Calcium Status

A large part of the population avoid milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products because they have found that these types of foods don´t agree with them. Bloating, gas, and cramps after eating milk based foods are all signs that point to the fact that their levels and activity of lactase enzyme are not adequate to properly digest the sugar lactose that is found in such foods. Many people refer to this as ´lactose intolerance´, but it is more correctly termed ´lactase deficiency´.

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Avoiding milk based products is one way of coping with lactase deficiency. However, there may be long term implications to such a strategy. Besides containing the milk sugar lactose, dairy products are a good source of protein and, more importantly, calcium. Dietary recommendations call for xx servings of milk or milk products per day, based in part on the fact that such foods are such a good source of readily available calcium. The average adolescent should be consuming 1200 mg of calcium a day. At this time of life the body is using calcium and other minerals to build up bone mass. But as we age, bone mass stops increasing and in many women, especially post-menopausal women bone mass actually starts to decrease. Therefore, avoiding dairy products, especially during the formative years, may result in chronic calcium deficiency, and this in turn could result in bone loss and eventually osteoporosis.

So how can you get enough calcium in your diet if you are lactase deficient? Since there are different degrees of lactase deficiency, it is best to include dairy products in your diet up to the point where they cause problems. Your body will tell you when you have reached your limit. There is some experimental evidence which indicates that yogurt is tolerated well by lactase deficient individuals. As well, the use of calcium supplements which is one way of getting extra calcium, is on the rise.

Table 1
Dietary Sources of Calcium
milk - 2% fat121 mg/100ml
mozzarella cheese (whole milk)517 mg/100g
yogurt(whole milk)121 mg/100g
broccoli - cooked46 mg/100g
cabbage - raw47 mg/100g
carrot - raw27 mg/100g
potato - baked5 mg/100g

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