The importance of calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients found in milk and dairy products to bone health and to overall health are well known. But the true impact of lactose intolerance and the avoidance of dairy products is not. Health care providers are unsure how to counsel patients with lactose intolerance because so many questions remain. Those who believe they have lactose intolerance and those from ethnic groups—Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders—in which lactose intolerance is thought to be common are also uncertain how to manage their symptoms and may needlessly avoid dairy products as a result.
So what do we actually know about lactose intolerance and its effects on health?
To review the available scientific evidence about lactose intolerance and health, the NICHD and the NIH Office of Medical Applications of Research are holding a three-day Consensus Development Conference on Lactose Intolerance and Health. At the conference, independent experts will gather to address questions such as:
Unlike other conferences, which rely on content experts to make recommendations, Consensus Development Conferences are unique in that their recommendations come from an independent and unbiased expert panel. Panel members have no conflicts of interest, or financial or career interests related to the topic. They are highly regarded in their own fields, but are not closely aligned with the subject.
The meeting includes an in-depth presentation of evidence, including a Systematic Literature Review (complete review and synthesis of published information prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) and presentations from recognized experts on the topic. Periods of testimony from the general public and participants are also included. The panel takes all the evidence and information into consideration and prepares and presents a final statement.
Lactose intolerance and its effects on health are highly relevant to the NICHD, which has a broad portfolio in overall growth and development, in bone health and development, and in nutrition. The Institute’s Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Growth (ENG) Branch provides a focus for research and research training in areas including pediatric endocrinology and diabetes, physical growth and body composition, including bone health and obesity, and nutritional science. Other examples of Institute activities on this topic include the following:
The final consensus statement from the Lactose Intolerance and Health conference will likely have major implications for public health and will help health care providers and patients make educated evidence-based decisions. For more information, select one of the links below:
Originally Posted: February 22, 2010
All NICHD Spotlights