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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Report from the LI Conference, part 12

Back from a short lunch we plunged directly into more presentations.

Aging: Lactose Intolerance and Calcium Absorption in the Elderly
Richard J. Wood, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Nutrition
School of Public Health & Health Sciences
University of Massachusetts

We're a nation of just over 300,000,000 people. We're also an aging nation. People are living longer than ever before, and the demographic bulge caused by the vastly increased birthrates that represent the baby boomer generation is moving to the older segment of the population. The first boomers are turning 64 this year. By the year 2030 there will be an estimated increase of 33 million people in the 65 and over age bracket, making a total of 25% of Americans. You can't blame the boomers entirely. The oldest will be only 84 that year but a full 5% of the population will be 85 or over then.

What happens to humans as they become older, an older population than ever before? Specifically, what do we know about the elderly and LI? As will be a woefully recurring theme, the answer is "next to nothing."

Although many studies have characterized the prevalence of lactose maldigestion and symptoms of lactose intolerance in various adult populations, there is surprisingly little information concerning this condition in the elderly, especially in the very old (>80 years). What little evidence is available indicates that the prevalence of lactose maldigestion may increase with age in adults, but that symptoms of lactose intolerance do not increase with age.

Little evidence means little evidence. Apparently fewer than a hundred elderly in total have ever been investigated in LI studies.

And those meager results are big time compared to the number of elderly patients tested to see whether lactose malabsorption affects calcium absorption. We just don't know. The possible good news is that tests on younger patients don't show any difference. Keep on having calcium in whatever form you like.

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