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How many people are affected or at risk for lactose intolerance?

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How many people are lactose intolerant?

The true number of people with lactose intolerance is not known. Many people who have symptoms of lactose intolerance have not been diagnosed with the condition. Many people who think they are lactose intolerant do not have difficulty digesting lactose. Many people who have difficulty digesting lactose do not get symptoms.1

Who gets lactose intolerance and who is at risk for it?

Lactose intolerance can affect anyone. In the United States, it is most common among1:

  • African Americans
  • Asian Americans
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Native Americans

Lactose intolerance is uncommon in young children because most infants are born with enough lactase. But for many people, the amount of lactase in their bodies decreases over a lifetime.

Preterm infants born before 34 weeks' gestation can have low lactase levels because their digestive tract is not fully developed.2

  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. Heyman, M. B.; AAP Committee on Nutrition. (2006). Lactose intolerance in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics, 118(3), 1276–1286. PMID 16951027[top]

Last Reviewed: 05/06/2014
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology