Ad Targets Lactose Intolerant Jews

By Ross Schneiderman

Published June 13, 2003, issue of June 13, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Lactose intolerant Jews, don’t be ashamed; you’re not alone. According to a new ad for Lactaid milk, 60% of Jewish Americans suffer from the painful cramps, excessive flatulence and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with the disorder.

The ad, which first appeared in the June issues of Hadassah and Reform Judaism magazines, features a picture of a woman with dotted lines on her upper lip — the place where her milk mustache should be. In the top right-hand corner, the ad inquires, “Miss Milk?” Below, the ad mentions the percentage of Jewish Americans who allegedly suffer from lactose intolerance and claims that Lactaid milk can help those with the disorder enjoy milk products without pain and discomfort.

Jews aren’t the only group affected. “Lactose tolerance is actually unusual,” said Dr. Mark Walsh, a gastroneurologist and chairman of the Pharmacy and Therapeutic Committee at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. “A lot of adults will lose a lot of the activity of lactase” — the enzyme that breaks down lactose, the simple sugar found in milk — “as they get older.”

Other experts agree. According to the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America’s Web site, “Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Jews in Israel and elsewhere, and most Africans and their descendants demonstrate very high levels of lactose intolerance.” The site claims that lactose tolerance is only common among northern Europeans and groups of Middle Eastern people such as Bedouins, Yemenites and Saudis.

The CCFA site and Walsh both state that researchers believe that the lactase enzyme is generally present in newborns, but then decreases within the next two years of their lives. The site states that lactase “seems to remain at normal levels only in those peoples and regions whose adult populations depended upon milk as a staple for the last few thousand years.”

But if lactose intolerance is common, Jews of Eastern European descent, as well as Asians, are still disproportionately affected. Indeed, Lactaid’s statistics may actually underestimate the disorder’s prevalence; according to the CCFA site, “80 to 97% of Jews of European descent and Asian-Americans… report symptoms when they drink… three to four glasses of milk per day.”

As with any other disease, complications vary from person to person. The CCFA site says that some will show signs of lactose intolerance after just one glass of milk, while others may be able to imbibe large quantities without problems. In addition, some foods containing milk are less problematic than others; butter and processed cheese, for example, contain almost no lactose.

The good news, Walsh says, is that products like Lactaid — both the milk, which is fortified with added lactase for easier digestion, and Lactaid pills, which can be taken before eating dairy products to reduce symptoms — can help lactose intolerant people. Yet he maintains that there is no miracle cure. “They can be helpful,” he said. “But it’s sometimes hard to calculate when and how much of the product one needs to take at a given time. If someone loves ice cream and they are lactose intolerant, they better take something — and enough of it.”

Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  •'s Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.