Lactose Intolerance Map: Population Percentage & Rates

Map by New Scientist

The map above shows how lactose intolerance (LI) is prevalent among countries across the world.

Lactose intolerance occurs when your body doesn’t accept lactose, a substance commonly found in dairy products such as milk and cheese. Its symptoms usually manifest from a few hours after consuming dairy products.

Dairy intolerance is highly commonplace in Asia and the Pacific.

  • East and Southeast Asian countries have a 90 to 100 percent rate, shown on the map in red. Countries in these regions include China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Central Asia has a dairy intolerant population of 80 percent, represented in dark orange.
  • 40 percent of people in India are not tolerant of dairy. India produces the most milk in the world, taking into account all milk-producing mammals.
  • Australia only has about 10 percent of people who say they cannot take dairy well.

Africa has a prevailing milk intolerant populace.

  • Its southwestern, southeastern, and southern regions have a high percentage rate at 80 to 90 percent.
  • Central Africa has lower numbers, at only 10 to 20 percent.

In Europe, meanwhile:

  • Northern Europe generally has a low to moderate number of milk intolerant people, at 20 to 30 percent.
  • However, southern European countries report that 40 to 50 percent of people there are intolerant to dairy products.
  • Southern France has the highest prevalence in Europe, at around 70 to 80 percent.

The reason why the rate is low in most of Europe is probably because of early Proto Indo Europeans. They are said to have domesticated horses and started farming dairy goods within the continent.

In the Americas, i.e. both North and South America:

  • Dairy intolerance is very common in Mexico and most of South America, as 70 to 80 percent of people say they don’t receive dairy products well.
  • In the United States, only 10 to 20 percent say they have LI.

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