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Does lactose intolerance affect bone health?

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The role of lactose intolerance and lactose-free diets on bone health is not yet clear. Many people who are lactose intolerant, or think they are, avoid dairy products and do not get enough calcium and vitamin D.1 Dairy products are especially good sources of these nutrients, which are needed for bone health. People who do not get enough calcium over their lifetime are more likely to get osteoporosis (pronounced os-tee-oh-puh-ROH-sis), or thinning bones.2 Despite these facts, research has yet to clarify whether lactose intolerance increases the risk of osteoporosis.3

Still, experts do know how much calcium and vitamin D people need to grow and maintain healthy bones. People who are or think they are lactose intolerant need to be sure they get enough of these important nutrients, whether from dairy or nondairy sources. It's important that children and teens get enough of these nutrients because most bone mass builds up during this time of life. Building bone mass in youth helps keep bones healthy and strong throughout life and prevents osteoporosis later in life.2,3


  1. Suchy, F. J., Brannon, P. M., Carpenter, T. O., Fernandez, J. R., Gilsanz, V., Gould, J. B., et al. (2010). NIH consensus development conference statement: Lactose intolerance and health. NIH Consensus and State-of-the-Science Statements, 27(2), 1–27. PMID 20186234 [top]
  2. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2011). Osteoporosis overview. Retrieved April 25, 2012, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/overview.asp [top]
  3. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2011). What people with lactose intolerance need to know about osteoporosis. Retrieved April 25, 2012, from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Osteoporosis/Conditions_Behaviors/lactose_intolerance.asp [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 11/30/2012
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