Nutritional management of lactose intolerance: the importance of diet and food labelling

Maria Sole Facioni, Benedetta Raspini, Francesca Pivari, Elena Dogliotti, Hellas Cena

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Worldwide, 70% of the adult population has limited expression of lactase enzyme with a wide variation among different regions and countries. Lactase deficiency may lead to lactose intolerance (LI). Depending both on the amount of lactose ingested and on the lactase activity, people who suffer from lactose malabsorption might experience numerous gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms and manifestations. Treatment of LI mainly consists of reducing or eliminating lactose from the diet until the symptoms disappear as well as supplementing lactase, and inducing colon microbiome adaptation by probiotics. Cow's milk is one of the major source of calcium and several other vitamins and minerals. Thus, a complete exclusion of dairy products may favor the development of bone diseases such as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Therefore, the dietetic approach has a crucial role in the management of LI patients. Additionally, the use of lactose and milk-derived products in non-dairy products (e.g., baked goods, breakfast cereals, drinks, and processed meat) has become widespread in the modern industry (the so-called "hidden lactose"). In this regard, a strict adherence to the lactose-free diet becomes challenging for LI patients, forced to continuous check of all products and food labels. In fact, lactose-free product labeling is still controversial. Considering that nowadays a specific cut-off value establishing "lactose-free" labeling policy is lacking and that there is no universal law regulating the production and commercialization of "delactosed" products, identification of specific safe and suitable products with a well-recognized lactose-free logo might help consumers. This narrative review aims to identify the dietary management for lactose intolerant people, avoiding symptoms and nutrients deficiencies, helped by the use of specific labelling to guide them to choose the safer product on the market.

Original languageEnglish
Article number260
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 26 2020


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