The pattern of lactose tolerance varies widely around the globe. People from northern Europe and their descendents have the highest percentages of tolerance, or ability to drink milk. East Asians have among the lowest. Though I reported yesterday that some African tribes developed lactose tolerance, the majority of tribes did not. These were predominantly the tribes whose populations were enslaved and many of their descendents now live in the United States. Forced matings during the era of slavery ensure that many slave descendents have white, usually northern European, ancestors as well.
This all implies that African-Americans will have an intermediate level of lactose tolerance. That doesn't imply that African-Americans typically consume large quantities of dairy products.
Lactose Intolerance and Ethnic Prevalence
Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H.
San Diego Chapter
National Medical Association
San Diego County Health Officer
San Diego, California
Wooten's talk spelled out some of the implications of this lack of dairy in African-Americans.
• Less than 75% of African Americans meet the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends three servings of dairy foods per day (Beydoun 2008; NHANES data).
• African American children consume only 0.8 to 1.0 servings of milk per day.
• By consuming the recommended three servings of low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, or cheese), a number of health benefits can be achieved.
• An estimated 75% of African Americans fail to meet daily calcium requirements because of lactose intolerance.
Much of the problem goes to self-selected attitudes towards dairy. Although only a minority of African-Americans consider themselves lactose intolerant, there is a pattern of excluding dairy.
We'll hear a lot more about dairy later on. But first it's time for lunch.