Last updated on: 3/26/2020 | Author: ProCon.org

Lactose Intolerance by Country

Source: Carsten Schertzer, “January 26th,” flickr.com, Jan. 26, 2012

Lactose intolerance is “an impaired ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Lactose intolerance in infants is caused by a mutation in the LCT gene, which results in a life-long intolerance. This condition is inherited, rare, and most common in Finland.

In adults, lactose intolerance is caused by normally decreasing activity of the LCT gene, which means adults may experience increasing inability to digest lactose as they age. About 65% of the adult human population has this sort of lactose intolerance, which results in abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal consequences after eating dairy products.

According to the NIH, in adults lactose intolerance shows up most often in people of East Asian heritage, affecting 70 to 100% of the population. Encyclopaedia Britannica adds that the condition affects about 75 to 90% of Native Americans, Black people, Asians, Mediterraneans, and Jewish people. Only about 5% of Northern and Central Europeans have lactose intolerance.

Sources:

Kelli Glaser, “Lactose Intolerance: Pathology,” britannica.com (accessed Mar. 25, 2020)

National Institutes of Health US National Library of Medicine, “Lactose Intolerance” ghr.nlm.nih.gov, Mar. 17, 2020


Data Source: Christian Løvold Storhaug, Svein Kjetil Fosse, and Lars T Fadnes, “Country, Regional, and Global Estimates for Lactose Malabsorption in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” thelancet.com, Oct. 1, 2017

Global Prevalence of Lactose Intolerance by Country

(percent of country’s population with lactose intolerance)

CountryPrevalence
Afghanistan82%
Algeria62%
Angola94%
Armenia98%
Australia44%
Austria22%
Azerbaijan96%
Belgium15%
Botswana88%
Brazil60%
Cambodia68%
Cameroon89%
Canada59%
Chile56%
China85%
Colombia80%
Cyprus16%
Czech Republic81%
Democratic Republic of the Congo95%
Denmark4%
Egypt68%
Estonia28%
Ethiopia77%
Finland19%
France36%
Gabon93%
Germany16%
Ghana100%
Greece55%
Hungary39%
India61%
Iran88%
Iraq93%
Ireland4%
Israel89%
Italy72%
Japan73%
Jordan56%
Kazakhstan75%
Kenya39%
Kuwait56%
Lebanon78%
Malawi100%
Malaysia87%
Mexico48%
Mongolia88%
Morocco73%
Mozambique95%
Myanmar92%
Namibia93%
Netherlands12%
New Zealand10%
Niger13%
Nigeria87%
Norway12%
Oman96%
Pakistan58%
Papua New Guinea91%
Poland43%
Portugal40%
Republic of Congo93%
Russia61%
Rwanda49%
Saudi Arabia28%
Senegal79%
Solomon Islands99%
Somalia94%
South Africa81%
South Korea100%
Spain29%
Sri Lanka73%
Sudan55%
Sweden7%
Syria95%
Taiwan88%
Tanzania45%
Thailand84%
Tunisia84%
Turkey69%
Uganda87%
Ukraine61%
United Kingdom8%
United States36%
Uruguay65%
Uzbekistan92%
Vietnam98%
Western Sahara53%
Yemen100%
Zambia98%

Source: Christian Løvold Storhaug, Svein Kjetil Fosse, and Lars T Fadnes, “Country, Regional, and Global Estimates for Lactose Malabsorption in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” thelancet.com, Oct. 1, 2017