Lactose intolerance should not be confused with milk allergy, which is much less common. Milk allergy is a sensitivity to the protein in milk, not lactose (a carbohydrate), and occurs most often in infants. Sensitivity to cow’s milk protein is higher in early years because of the immaturity of the digestive and immune systems. An estimated 0.3% to 7.5% of infants (2, 3) experience cow’s milk allergy. The incidence is higher in infants who are fed cow’s milk very early in life (i.e. before 3 - 4 months of age) and/or who have a family history of allergies (2, 3). It usually disappears by 2 years of age but in a few cases may continue or appear later in life. By the age of five, 80% of children outgrow milk allergies (1).
Dairy exclusion can increase risk of disease like osteoporosis if adequate nutrients are not replaced or supplemented (4). It is important for individuals that are dealing with a lactose intolerance, as opposed to a dairy allergy, to continue to include milk and alternatives in their diet.
1. Bock S.A. 1988. Food Allergy. A Primer for People. 2nd ed. New York: Vantage Press.
2. Dairy Council Digest. 1989. Food sensitivity and dairy products. 60: 25-30.
3. Fousard T. 1985. Development of food allergies with special reference to cow's milk allergy. Pediatrics 75 (suppl.): 177 - 180.
4. Suchy FJ, Brannon PM, Carpenter TO, Fernandez JR, Gilsanz V, Gould JB, Hall K, Hui SL, Lupton J, Mennella J, Miller NJ, Osganian SK, Sellmeyer DE, Wolf MA. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2010 Feb 22-24; 27(2): 1-27.