Recent advances on lactose intolerance: Tolerance thresholds and currently available answers

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Oct 13;57(15):3344-3356. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1123671.


The genetically programmed reduction in lactase activity during adulthood affects 70% of the world adult population and can cause severe digestive disorders, which are the sign of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance symptoms vary depending on the residual lactase activity, the small bowel transit time, and especially the amount of ingested lactose. To formulate dairy products suitable for the vast majority of lactose intolerants, it is essential to define lactose intolerance threshold. A recent meta-analysis permitted to show that almost all lactose intolerants tolerate 12 g of lactose in one intake and approximately 18 g of lactose spread over the day. The prevalence and severity of lactose intolerance are probably overestimated by the general public. This misconception usually leads to an unnecessary reduction of dairy foodstuff consumption. Nevertheless, dairy products are essential for health mainly due to their calcium content and the positive influence of probiotic bacteria. The formulation of dairy products suitable for most intolerant and suspicious subjects seems necessary. The use of exogenous enzyme preparations, as well as the consumption of lactose-free products or products rich in probiotic bacteria are proposed as symptom-reducing strategies.

Keywords: Dairy; lactase; low-lactose products; prevalence; probiotics; β-galactosidase.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Dairy Products
  • Humans
  • Lactose / metabolism*
  • Lactose Intolerance / enzymology
  • Lactose Intolerance / metabolism*
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Lactose