Hi there! Welcome to my Catalyst Conference page! Research shows that more than 90% of Asians are supposed to be lactose intolerant. However, as a student living in Asia, I’ve come to realize that almost none of my friends are intolerant. Is that because they aren’t aware? Or is it because they’re simply not intolerant? Below, you will find my inspiration and personal connection to this project, the biochemistry and prevalence of lactose intolerance, and some interactive polls and surveys to help both me and you understand this topic better. Please enjoy 🙂
Before we start, here’s a quiz for you to see what you know (No cheating!):
This is my story and personal connection to the matter at hand, lactose intolerance.
How Lactose Intolerance Works:
This video explains the hows and whys of lactose intolerance very well. When I was researching and getting to know my own intolerance better, this was one of the first videos I watched and it help me get a clearer understanding of lactose intolerance.
Demographics of Lactose Intolerance:
From this image, it is fairly obvious that lactose intolerance rates are highly dependent on race. Regions like Asia, South America, and Africa have higher concentrations of intolerants, which explains why the cuisine in these areas don’t typically utilize dairy. Tracing even further into history, these regions didn’t have many cows, meaning that people had less opportunity to try their milk, thus their bodies didn’t recognize the need to produce lactase continually throughout adulthood.
Some research suggests that perhaps the consumption of lactose can gradually spur the body to produce more lactase, thus the regions that consume the most dairy, North America, Europe, and Australia, have the lowest intolerance rates.
List of Alternative “Dairy” Products:
- Milk: Soy, Almond, Lactaid, Coconut
- Cheese: Soy and Nut Cheese (check your local grocery store)
- Butter: Margarine, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
How My School Caters To It
Although my school’s cafeteria food is by no means bad when it comes to taste, I do think they could work more in terms of catering to a wider variety of diets. Out of the 11 stations for students to choose from, typically only one is vegetarian friendly and none are suitable for those who eat kosher or halal. This means that some students are forced to bring home lunch to school. Most of us who are lactose intolerant or have food allergies like to bring home lunch too, just because we know exactly what’s in the home lunch and what’s not. One good thing that the cafeteria does, and this is a pretty recent change, is have food labels. This tells students who have allergies what they shouldn’t eat. However, since the kitchen is closed off, cross contamination easily becomes an issue, although this doesn’t really affect lactose intolerants.
Another issue that food labels don’t solve is variety. It’s great that lactose intolerants know what foods to avoid, but is it still so great when it turns out that we have to avoid all the food?
Here are some examples of the food at school:
This is a bottle of milk tea. Upon seeing the label, I thought it’d be coconut milk tea and I purchased it. I took a sip and I thought I could taste milk, so I checked the label, and sure enough, one of the first ingredients was whole milk.
These are examples of the food labels we have. They’re quite helpful in letting students and faculty understand the nutrition levels and some ingredients.
Call For Change
As evidenced above, my school doesn’t have much that would make someone who’s lactose intolerant very comfortable. When I went to the U.S. for summer camp, there were all kinds of foods designed to bring an air of inclusivity. For example, there was kosher and non-kosher meats and some foods were labeled gluten-free. Although we have food labels with allergy warnings, . This makes my lunches at school a really big struggle. Trying to get any special food accommodation here in China is really hard, because people aren’t aware enough to create the same dish with alternatives (unless they’re my amazing Mom), all an intolerant can do is avoid the food. Sometimes when we eat at restaurants, the waiters don’t even know what their foods contain!
So I challenge both me and you to push for lactose intolerance awareness! Although the rates are supposedly much higher in China, it doesn’t mean that no one in the United States is intolerant! It is estimated at 36% of Americans are actually intolerant (NIH). This means that, throughout the world, people everywhere are struggling with
I intended to interview the cafeteria manager at my school, but we were not able to establish a good time to meet. 🙁
Fun Facts About Lactose Intolerance! Having it may not be fun, but learning about it certainly is!
- Lactose tolerance is actually the mutation, not intolerance! It is believed that lactose tolerance developed in Europeans, and then spread to a certain extent.
- Lactose intolerance is not a milk allergy.
- Lactose-free milk is not made by taking all the lactose out, but by putting lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, in.
- Lactose helps the body absorb calcium and vitamin D, so intolerants have a higher chance of being deficient
- Every fact on this list begins with the word “lactose”.
Surveys and Polls
I would really appreciate it if you took just a few minutes to complete one or more of the surveys and polls below. I believe that they will help both you and me in understanding lactose intolerance and its prevalence better.