Skip to content

Children's Health

Font Size

Lactose Intolerant Kids Need Dairy

Dairy Foods Still Necessary for Strong Bones

Alternate Calcium Sources

Although it is possible for children to get the calcium they need for strong bones without dairy, it isn't easy.

Broccoli, brussels sprouts, dried figs, and sardines are among the most calcium-rich nondairy foods -- but good luck getting the typical child to eat them.

Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice may be a more realistic option. But the AAP has also warned parents to limit fruit juices, which contain a lot of sugar.

The group recommends no more than 6 ounces per day of fruit juice for children age 1 to 6, and 12 ounces for older kids and teens.

While calcium supplements may help, children on lactose-free diets appear to have a harder time absorbing calcium in this or any form.

"Recent evidence indicates that dietary lactose enhances calcium absorption and, conversely, that lactose-free diets result in lower calcium absorption," the report says.

Thus, lactose intolerancelactose intolerance (and lactose-free diets) may, in theory, predispose people to inadequate bone development.

The Racial Divide

According to the AAP report, as much as 70% of the world's population is lactose intolerant to some degree, meaning they are deficient in the lactase enzyme.

Not surprisingly, racial and ethnic groups which have historically had little exposure to dairy foods are the most intolerant, while those with the most exposure are the least.

Nearly 100% of Asians and Native Americans have a lactase deficiency, while 80% of Hispanics and 60% to 80% of blacks produce insufficient quantities of the enzyme. Only 2% of northern Europeans are lactose intolerant.

Children in high-risk ethnic groups may develop symptoms with dairy exposure as early as age 2 or 3, but white children rarely develop symptoms before 4 or 5, the report states.

While most people with lactase deficiency develop symptoms in their teens or adult years, approximately 20% of Hispanic, Asian, and black children younger than age 5 show evidence of the deficiency.

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration