Milk causes 'serious illness for 7m Britons'

Bruce Friedrich Brucef at
Tue Jun 24 12:18:33 EDT 2003


The Independent, June 22, 2003

Milk causes 'serious illness for 7m Britons'

Scientists say undetected lactose intolerance is to blame for chronic
fatigue, arthritis and bowel problems

By Severin Carrell

Millions of British adults are suffering from serious illness because
their bodies are unable to safely digest milk, a husband and wife team
of biochemists have claimed.

Dr Stephanie Matthews and Professor Anthony Campbell believe at least
seven million Britons suffer from chronic fatigue, arthritis-type joint
problems and bowel problems because they are intolerant to lactose, a
sugar which naturally occurs in milk.

Their findings - being presented at a national conference on food
allergies organised by the Royal Society of Medicine on 1 July - will
provoke fierce controversy in the medical world and alarm the farming
and food industries.

The couple, who have already had one case study based on their theory
published in the The Lancet, claim that millions of people are suffering
from these illnesses because their intolerance has gone undetected.

Dr Matthews, who runs a special NHS clinic dealing with lactose
intolerant patients at Llandough Hospital in Cardiff, said more than 250
patients showed marked and often complete improvements in their health
after cutting milk from their diets.

After being checked with a widely recognised breath test for milk
intolerance, the patients were cured of illnesses such as debilitating
fatigue, headaches, persistent bowel and stomach upsets, and even asthma
and tachycardia - a rapid and irregular heart beat.

"Milk is very good for you - if you can tolerate it - but if you can't,
it can do you a lot of harm, and this hasn't been recognised," Dr
Matthews said. Her husband, a professor at the University of Wales
College of Medicine, added: "We believe we've found a major new syndrome

However, two of Britain's leading authorities on lactose intolerance
were deeply sceptical about their claims.

Dr Paul Clayton, who will co-chair the Royal Society of Medicine
conference, said he believed they had confused lactose intolerance with
an allergic reaction to other proteins in milk. "I find this very hard
to understand," he said.

Professor Dallas Swallow, a geneticist at the Galton Laboratory at
University College London, said their theory was "implausible". Few of
these illnesses, except bowel and stomach problems, had been
scientifically linked to lactose intolerance. "I'm puzzled about this,"
she said.

Medical experts agree that about 5 per cent of white Britons become
unable to digest lactose when they reach adulthood. They fall ill if
they drink milk or eat foods such as breads, ready-meals or sauces which
contain milk or its natural sweetener, lactose.

The proportion of lactose-intolerant adults from other ethnic groups
rises sharply in the southern hemisphere and the Far East. While nearly
all babies can safely drink milk, about 95 per cent of Chinese adults
and about 50 per cent of north Indians grow up to be lactose intolerant.

Dr Matthews and Professor Campbell believe that at least four million
white Britons suffer from this intolerance - double the accepted figure.
A large majority of Britain's three million non-white adults also have
that intolerance, they suspect.

Their symptoms go undetected because there can be a 24- to 36-hour gap
between someone drinking milk and suffering symptoms, because lactose
intolerance is often unrecognised and because their symptoms are so
similar to other illnesses.

They also believe the rate of lactose intolerance has grown because far
more processed foods, such as bread, beer and even sausages, use lactose
as a bulking agent, texturising agent and sweetener. The lactose
additive is often not labelled - chiefly because it is not seen as

Professor Campbell, a biochemist who achieved fame last year after
inventing a test using genetically modified proteins that change colour,
said: "We're not saying milk is bad for everybody - it's a tremendous
product. I take a lot of it because I'm okay."

The couple believe that sufferers become ill because they don't have the
lactase enzyme that processes lactose in their small intestine. As a
result, the lactose passes into the large intestine, and is then "eaten"
by unsuitable gut bacteria, which then discharge toxins into the body -
a theory disputed by Dr Clayton.

They admit their theory needs to be tested in a peer-reviewed scientific
trial, and will apply for research funding. Their local NHS ethics
committee has approved their plans to test patients referred by hospital

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