Understanding lactose intolerance: its origins and hereditary traits


Lactose intolerance is a common digestive disorder affecting millions of people worldwide (almost 75% of the world's population). But what is the origin of this phenomenon and what role do hereditary traits play in its development? Let's delve into the mechanisms of this condition and discover its secrets.

Insights into the origins of lactose intolerance and its hereditary characteristics

What is lactose intolerance?

If you're a regular reader of our blog, you'll be familiar with this concept, but let's have a quick reminder for new readers 😉
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body is unable to digest food efficiently. lactosea sugar found mainly in dairy products (but also in charcuterie). This inability results from a lack or reduced production of lactasethe enzyme needed to break down lactose for optimum intestinal absorption.

Origins of lactose intolerance 

Human evolution 🐒➡️🧍‍♂️

Historically, the ability to digest lactose was limited to infants and young children. However, with the advent of agriculture and livestock breeding, certain human groups (mainly in the Caucasus region) developed a genetic mutation enabling them to produce lactase continuously into adulthood.

This mutation has evolved independently in different populations, notably those of European, African and Middle Eastern origin. Populations whose ancestors raised livestock generally have a higher prevalence of lactose tolerance. On the other hand, groups whose traditional diets were low in dairy products retained a poor ability to digest lactose in adulthood.

Hereditary traits and risks 🧬

Hereditary traits play a major role in susceptibility to lactose intolerance. The genes responsible for lactase production are located on chromosome 2. Genetic variations in this region can influence the body's ability to produce lactase.

For example, some people have mutations that result in reduced or absent production of lactase in childhood or early adulthood, leading to lactose intolerance. These genetic variations can be inherited from the parents and are often observed in families where lactose intolerance is more common. Children born to lactose-intolerant parents have a higher risk of developing the condition.

Other individuals may inherit versions of genes that favour continued lactase production into adulthood, giving them prolonged lactose tolerance. Populations with a high prevalence of lactose intolerance often share a common genetic background.

People of European descent are statistically less likely to develop lactose intolerance than those of African, Asian or Native American descent. However, even within European populations, genetic variations exist, which explains why some people of European origin can also be lactose intolerant.

Day-to-day diagnosis and management 🔬

The diagnosis of lactose intolerance is often based on clinical symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea after consuming dairy products. These symptoms generally occur in between 15 minutes and 4 hours after eating high-risk foods.

Lactose tolerance tests may also be carried out to confirm the diagnosis.

On a day-to-day basis, managing lactose intolerance mainly involves avoiding the following foods containing lactose or use lactose-free substitutes. Many dairy products are now available in lactose-free form, enabling people with lactose intolerance to enjoy the nutritional benefits of milk and its derivatives without the undesirable effects.

Lactase supplementation is still the best way to combat the symptoms of lactose intolerance on a long-term basis, without depriving yourself of your favourite foods.

➡️ Click here to find out more about lactase supplementation💊


Lactose intolerance is a complex digestive disorder, influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Hereditary traits play an important role in how easily and how severely it appears in an individual. Understanding the origins of this condition can help to better manage its symptoms and adapt one's diet accordingly.

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