Thursday, May 10, 2007

Something every parent adopting an Asian child should know...

Lactose intolerance is a condition found in between 90 and 100% of ethnic Asians. This means anyone from Asia has a 9 out of 10 chance of having hypolactasis. Lactose intolerance (LI) is an inability to digest the lactose found in dairy products, often resulting in cramps, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. If your child throws up or has hives, this is not lactose intolerance but a milk allergy and should be treated accordingly.
LI is a common genetic disorder found in more than half the world's population. Usually those affected are Asian, African-American, South Asian, or Arab. Most Europeans, particularly those in, or descended from, those in Western and Northern Europe, such as Scandinavia, the British Isles, Poland, France, etc., are lactose persistant, or lactose tolerant. The further south in Europe you go, the more common LI becomes. Italians and Greeks have the highest rates of LI in Europe. Scandinavia has almost no occurance of it. This is largely because these areas have been drinking cow's milk so much longer than other areas have and, as such, have developed the proper enzymes to tolerate it. Humans naturally lose their ability to produce lactase after weaning, because, before people started drinking animal milk, humans didn't drink milk after weaning, so there was no reason to continue producing lactase. Because Europeans consistantly were drinking milk after weaning, so the enzyme continued to be produced. Other areas of the world haven't developed the ability to continue producing this enzyme because they're just now beginning to ingest dairy often.

So Asian people have a high rate of LI. So keep your eye out for it. I'm one of the unfortunate few people of European descent who can't digest any dairy. I can eat a bit of milk chocolate and I'll tolerate the cheese on pizza, that's about it. For anything more, I have to take an Enzyme Complex. However, my LI has made me realize one thing: Soy milk is good. :)


Sarah Lu's Jie Jie said...

I never knew about that! I think Sarah might be lactose intolerant. Thanks for posting it!!

Anonymous said...

We know many, many people who have adopted from China and known of them are LI. I have a hard time believing that "90%-100%" of Asians have this condition. I am not trying to be rude - but where did you find this out? Maybe you misunderstood....

Anonymous said...

Oops - I meant 'none' not 'known.'

Monica said...

Many people do not become LI until they are 10 or older, when the amount of lactase produced becomes extremely small, if not non-existant. I'm willing to bet most of the Chinese children you know are very young.

Anonymous said...

Monica - You are right when you said they are all young .... they are. But I do know a lot of Asian adults as well, and none of them are LI either.

Where did you get this info? I am just curious because to say that 90% to 100% (as in every single Asian in the world) has LI is a very big generalization.

Monica said...

What it means is somewhere in between 90% and 100%. I've read anywhere in between those two numbers.

Good for the people you know that they aren't lactose intolerant, or at least don't know they are. As a teenager of predominantly Scotch-Irish descent, with a little American Indian thrown in, among other things I'm sure, I just happened to roll the dice horribly apparently...

Anonymous said...

Here is the info that Monica got her figures from.

Here's another table, compiled by Kent DeLong, M.D. regarding ethnicity and lactose intolerance, and reaffirming the ethnic/intolerant assumptions of the previous information.

The prevalence of lactose intolerance
in adults of certain ethnic groups
Ethnic Group Percent Intolerant
African Blacks 95%
Indians 90%
Asians 90%
North American Blacks 75%
Mexican Americans 75%
Mediterraneans 60%
North American Whites 15%

Give the poor girl a break!

Eileen said...

I thought it was an interesting statistic when I read it...I'm Asian and not LI. No one in my family is either, that I know of. Just thought I would throw that out. It just seems like a pretty high number. If it is correct, I feel fortunate!


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