Objective: To estimate the prevalence of milk hypersensitivity in Finnish adults.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Subjects: Two hundred men and 206 women aged 27 y randomly recruited from the population register in southwestern Finland.
Interventions: The subjects were interviewed about their dairy product consumption, abdominal discomfort after dairy product intake and lactose intolerance. From serum samples, serum reactivity to milk protein and milk-specific IgG1, IgG2, IgG3 and IgA were measured.
Results: About 20% of the subjects reported abdominal discomfort after dairy product intake, whereas only 6.4% had been diagnosed to have lactose intolerance. The amount of milk consumed correlated well with the serum assay results in subjects reporting abdominal discomfort but not in subjects who were free from these symptoms. Among subjects with no record of dairy product restriction or lactose intolerance, those experiencing abdominal discomfort after dairy product intake had significantly higher serum reactivity to milk protein than those without such discomfort. The concentrations of serum milk-specific antibodies did not differ between these two groups. The prevalence of milk hypersensitivity in this population was estimated to be 3-6%.
Conclusions: Milk hypersensitivity may be as common in adults as in infants. The measurement of serum reactivity to milk protein may prove useful in screening milk hypersensitivity in subjects who have not restricted their dairy product consumption.