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Global Lactose Intolerance Statistics

Lactose Intolerance

Approximately 33% of people are lactose intolerant[1], although some 75% of adults exhibit decreased lactase activity[1][2]. Perhaps inevitably, lactose intolerance is more prevalent in areas that are less conducive to dairy farming, with the highest tolerance being around northern Europe with the frequency of intolerant increasing as we venture south (the exceptions to this rule are Australia and New Zealand, being as they are predominantly populated by descendants of European settlers who brought their farming practices with them)[2]. Beyond that, this can apply even within countries; India, for example, sees a sharp increase in the south compared to the north[3].

Data

Country Frequency Total pop.a Estimatea Year Ref.
Argentina 60%b 41.3 24.8 2012 [3]
Australia 5% 21.7 1.1 2012 [3]
Brazil 85% 193.9 164.8 2012 [3]
Canada 20% 35.2 7.0 2012 [3]
Chile 69% 17.4 12.0 2012 [3]
China 92% 1354.0 1245.7 2012 [4]
Denmark 5% 5.5 0.3 2012 [3][5][6]
Egypt 72% 83.7 60.3 2012 [3]
Finland 18% 5.4 1.0 2012 [3]
France 20% 65.3 13.1 2012 [3]
Germany 15% 81.8 31.9 2012 [3]
Greece 72% 11.3 8.1 2012 [3]
Hong Kong 90%c 7.2 6.5 2011 [3]
India 50%d 1210.2 605.1 2012 [3]
Israel 70%e 7.9 5.9 2006 [7]
Italy 68% 60.8 41.3 2012 [3]
Japan 98% 127.5 125.0 2012 [3]
Mexico 66% 116.9 77.2 2012 [3]
Morocco 73% 32.6 23.4 2012 [3]
New Zealand 9% 4.5 0.4 2012 [3]
Norway 14%b 5.0 0.7 2012 [3]
Poland 37% 38.5 14.2 2012 [3]
Portugal 50%b 10.6 5.3 2012 [3]
Russia 13% 142.9 18.6 2012 [3]
Saudi Arabia 80% 29.6 23.7 2012 [3]
South Africa 84% 52.2 43.8 2012 [3]
South Korea 90%c 50.2 45.2 2013 [3]
Spain 24% 46.2 24.9 2012 [3]
Sweden 4% 9.5 0.4 2012 [3]
Taiwan 90%c 23.3 21.0 2013 [3]
Turkey 71% 74.7 53.0 2012 [3]
United Arab Emirates 80%b 9.2 7.4 2012 [3]
United Kingdom 16% 63.7 10.2 2012 [3]
United States 36%f 313.9 112.6 2012 [1][3]

a: Millions.

b: Estimate based on surrounding countries average.

c: Rough estimate based on map at [3].

d: Average of north and south; estimates of 30% and 70% respectively.

e: Disparity between Jewish and Arab populations (70% and 80% respectively). Given the similar disparity in population size, an average of the two figures in largely unrepresentative. Working the two out separately and checking that data against the total results in approximately 70%.

f: Varies significantly between ethnic groups. This is a national average.

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