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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Huge Gaps in Knowledge in LI

Twelve hours of travel time. Ninety-three minutes actually in the air. My brain is frazzled.

I'm back from the National Institutes of Health state-of-the-science conference on Lactose Intolerance. That was the greatest collection of experts on the subject on one place since Thomas Jefferson dined alone. (That's an old Kennedy joke, for those who aren't history buffs. He once told a dinner of Nobel Prize winners: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.")

How big a deal was this conference? It made the papers. Unless a genome is involved, nothing about LI ever makes the papers these days.

Many people who think they cannot digest dairy products might do all right if they eat a small amount at a time, but surprisingly little is known about just how many have true lactose intolerance, a government panel concluded Wednesday. ...

"There are huge gaps in knowledge," said panel chairman Dr. Frederick Suchy of Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Some studies show that people who think they are lactose intolerant actually can digest the sugar, and the NIH panel worried that people who completely avoid dairy products miss an important source of calcium and vitamin D, nutrients important for bone health and possibly other conditions, too.

The panel's advice:

-Seek a doctor's diagnosis, as symptoms may be due to irritable bowel syndrome or another disorder rather than lactose intolerance.

-If diagnosed, studies suggest some people still can tolerate small amounts of dairy, up to a cup of milk, if taken together with other foods. Also, some products like low-fat cheeses contain less lactose.

-Get enough calcium or vitamin D from other sources, such as fortified orange juice, lactose-removed dairy brands, calcium-rich broccoli, soy products or supplements.

If you look closely, you'll notice that even though that article was in the Washington Post, the local newspaper, the actual source is the Associated Press. And the reporter wasn't at the conference. That information comes from the press briefing this morning.

And that leaves me. As far as I know, I was the only representative of the press to attend the conference. Tomorrow, when my brain starts working again, I'll start an in-depth series of posts about the conference.

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