Last updated on: 4/9/2008 | Author:

Can People Who Are Lactose Intolerant Consume Milk Anyway?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development wrote in their Jan. 2006 publication “Lactose Intolerance: Information for Health Care Providers”:

“Individuals with lactose intolerance are unable to digest significant amounts of lactose due to an inadequate amount of the enzyme lactase.

Clinical symptoms of lactose intolerance can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence, and bloating. The severity of symptoms differs, often depending on the amount of lactase remaining in the body and how much lactose has been consumed.

Some patients with lactose intolerance may believe they are allergic to milk or milk products. A milk allergy, however, is related to the proteins in milk rather than the lactose.”

Jan. 2006

The National Dairy Council stated in their May/June 2006 article “Cow’s Milk Allergy Versus Lactose Intolerance”:

“Milk protein allergy and lactose intolerance underlie most adverse reactions to cow’s milk and milk products. Many differences exist between these conditions, including their cause, prevalence, prognosis, clinical symptoms, diagnosis, and management.

Cow’s milk allergy is an immunologically mediated response to one or more of cow’s milk proteins. Lactose intolerance, a non-immunological reaction, is the occurrence of symptoms after persons with low levels of the enzyme lactase (lactose maldigesters) consume lactose (milk sugar) in amounts exceeding lactase’s ability to digest it.”

May/June 2006

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases wrote in their Mar. 2006 publication “Lactose Intolerance”:

“Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest significant amounts of lactose, the major sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance is caused by a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is produced by the cells that line the small intestine. Lactase breaks down milk sugar into two simpler forms of sugar called glucose and galactose, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream. Not all people deficient in lactase have the symptoms commonly associated with lactose intolerance, but those who do are said to have lactose intolerance.

People sometimes confuse lactose intolerance with cow’s milk intolerance because the symptoms are often the same. However, lactose intolerance and cow’s milk intolerance are not related. Being intolerant to cow’s milk is an allergic reaction triggered by the immune system. Lactose intolerance is a problem caused by the digestive system.”

Mar. 2006

Amy Inman-Felton, RD, a researcher for the American Dietetic Association, wrote in her Apr. 1999 article “Overview of Lactose Maldigestion (Lactase Nonpersistence)”:

“[L]actose maldigestion does not mean one is allergic to milk, dairy foods or dairy products. A milk allergy is an allergy related to the proteins in milk, not lactose. Lactose maldigestion does not require a lactose-free or severely restricted diet. Dairy products that provide key nutrients such as calcium, vitamins A and D, riboflavin and phosphorus need not be eliminated.”

Apr. 1999

PRO (yes)


The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development wrote in their Jan. 2006 publication “Lactose Intolerance: Information For Health Care Providers”:

“Individuals vary in their degree of lactose intolerance, but even children and teenagers with primary lactose intolerance can usually consume 8 to 12 ounces (1 to 1.5 cups) of milk without experiencing symptoms.

Although the degree of lactose intolerance varies, most people with lactose intolerance do not require a completely lactose free diet. Milk and milk products should not be completely eliminated because they provide key nutrients such as calcium, vitamins A and D, riboflavin, and phosphorus.”

Jan. 2006


Amy Inman-Felton, researcher for the American Dietetic Association, wrote in her Apr. 1999 article “Overview of Lactose Maldigestion (Lactase Nonpersistence)”:

“Recent evidence strongly suggests that people with medically confirmed lactase maldigestion [lactose intolerance] can include the recommended number of servings of milk and other dairy foods in their diet without experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort. People with lactose maldigestion [lactose intolerance] who include milk and other lactose-containing dairy foods in their diet may actually improve their tolerance to lactose.”

Apr. 1999


Melvin B. Heyman, MD, MPH, a physician with the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote in his Sep. 2006 article “Lactose Intolerance In Infants, Children and Adolescents”:

“Even among population groups with significant lactose intolerance, the importance of dietary dairy products has been stressed. For example, the National Medical Association recently recommended that black people consume 3 to 4 servings per day of low-fat milk, cheese, and/or yogurt and that lactose-free milk be used as an alternative for those who are intolerant of these other products to help reduce the risk of nutrient-related chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

Treatment of lactose intolerance by elimination of milk and other dairy products is not usually necessary given newer approaches to lactose intolerance.”

Sep. 2006


The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition wrote in their Aug. 1978 (reaffirmed in Apr. 2000) publication “The Practical Significance of Lactose Intolerance In Children”:

“On the basis of present evidence it would be inappropriate to discourage supplemental milk feeding programs targeted at children on the basis of primary lactose intolerance.”

Aug. 1978

CON (no)


The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine wrote in a Jan. 2002 Fact Sheet “Understanding Lactose Intolerance”:

“There is no reason for people with lactose intolerance to push themselves to drink milk. Indeed, milk and other dairy products do not offer any nutrients that cannot be found in a healthier form in other foods. Surprisingly, drinking milk does not even appear to prevent osteoporosis, its major selling point.”

Jan. 2002


Frank Oski, MD, Former Director of the Department of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in his 1996 book Don’t Drink Your Milk!:

“Studies have suggested that some of the nutritional benefits of milk may be lost when a lactase-deficient [lactose intolerant] individual consumes milk. Not only does this person fail to receive the calories normally supplied by the undigested carbohydrates; resultant diarrhea may lead to loss of protein as well.

Two studies were conducted in groups of children with ‘recurrent abdominal pain of childhood,’ one study preformed in Boston and the other in San Francisco, came to a similar conclusion. The conclusion was that about one-third of such children had their symptoms on the basis of lactose intolerance. The simple solution was to remove all milk and milk-containing foods from the diet.”



Neal D. Barnard, MD, Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at George Washington University, wrote the following in an Aug. 2003 article “The Milk Debate Goes On and On and On!”:

“[S]ome individuals tolerate milk despite laboratory findings of lactose intolerance. However, many do not.

A cautious approach demands taking milk’s risks seriously and providing other beverage choices.”

Aug. 2003


Robert Cohen, Executive Director of the Dairy Education Board, wrote in an article titled “Lactose Intolerance” on (accessed Dec. 15, 2006):

“Fifty million Americans experience intestinal discomfort after consuming milk…Symptoms include stomach pain, gas, and diarrhea.

Most adults ‘lack’ the enzyme, lactase, to break down lactose. Instead, lactose is broken down by bacteria in the lower intestines. Their own body wastes combine with those sugars to ferment into toxins causing bloating and cramps.

Once a correct diagnosis [of lactose intolerance] is established, there is a simple cure: NOTMILK!”

Dec. 15, 2007