If most people are lactose intolerant, should I stop eating dairy?

A lot of popular claims about food are utterly illogical, yet ironically convincing.


It's tricky to spot the common errors in reasoning that tend to pop up in nutrition debates. That's the kicker about logical fallacies - the line of reasoning might sound right at first, but it's actually just plain incorrect.


Here's an example.


There's research to indicate that about 65 % of the population has some intolerance to dairy. Let's assume that the research behind this claim is methodologically sound (aka, reliable).


If 65 % of people are intolerant to dairy, does that mean that you should stop or limit eating dairy?


No.


But isn't that a logical conclusion from the available evidence?


No.


Let's stop for a second. What does this finding actually tell us?


It tell us that 2/3 of people have a decreased ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and some dairy products. But it doesn't say anything about whether that's you or not. That depends on your symptoms or testing to confirm you're intolerant. (It also depends on things like amount, quality, frequency and source).


If I said to you that 2/3 of people have an allergy to cats, does that mean that you shouldn't have a pet cat? Imagine you adore your darling feline, but you discover that it so happens a lot of people are allergic. Do you set Felix loose on the streets and settle for a goldfish?


No, of course not. Because it doesn't matter if 2/3 of people are allergic to cats. Your decision about having a pet cat should be based on whether YOU are allergic to cats.


Just like your decision to eat or cut out dairy should be based on whether YOU are intolerant to dairy.


Does it make sense to abandon your pet cat even if you don't have an allergy?


Does it make sense to never again enjoy a dash of full cream milk in your coffee, even though it's something you really like, if you can tolerate it just fine?


No.


If you can't digest lactose properly, then hey! Maybe you shouldn't eat it. Or, it's likely that you'll have a threshold for the amount and sources of dairy that you can eat (hint: if you notice bloating and gas, that's your sign that you've missed it already).


Think for yourself, not other people. It just might make life a lot easier for you.