Cow Milk Lactose and Human Digestion – how ?

Cow Milk Lactose and Human Digestion
– how ?

You may have experienced the pain of lactose intolerance firsthand if you: Do you know anyone else who is lactose intolerant? While many of us are familiar with the term “lactose,” we may not be able to provide much more information than “lactose is found in milk and may cause problems for some people.” Let’s break down what lactose is and how it may affect people who regularly consume (or wish to regularly consume) dairy products.

To define lactose:

Since it consists of glucose and galactose, lactose is a disaccharide. After eating, the blood sugar level rises to a level called glucose, which is used as fuel all over the body. Galactose, a sugar that shares many similarities with glucose, is used for energy and is a vital component of cell membranes.

Lactose is primarily found in mammalian milk and very rarely in other whole, unprocessed foods. During the first year of life, it is a crucial source of energy for infants (Silanikove et al. , 2015) In addition, it promotes the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in an infant’s digestive system, which acts as a natural defense against infectious diseases (Fassio et al. , 2018)

About 20% of the glucose in a cow’s bloodstream is used to produce lactose, which is synthesized in the mammary gland. Around 4% of the total economy can be attributed to this. 7 percent of the total nutrient content, usually more than the fat or protein combined (Costa et al. , 2019)

Figure 1: Cow’s milk is a nutrient-rich food source. Proteins, a wide range of fatty acids, and lactose, the predominant carbohydrate, make up the bulk of the solid components.

While lactose is rarely found in whole foods, it is ubiquitous in processed foods (e. g As a binder, filler, or browning agent, it is used in many different types of food and medicine, including baked goods, processed meats, breakfast cereals, potato chips, protein supplements, and pharmaceuticals. Surprisingly, lactose has a sweetness level roughly six times lower than sucrose (Ugidos-Rodriguez et al. , 2018), the typical sweetener found in most kitchens, is a molecule of glucose joined to a molecule of fructose (not galactose).

In what ways do human beings break down lactose?

The enzyme lactase (notice the minor but significant spelling difference) breaks down lactose. The small intestine is where lactase is most often found. After lactase digests lactose, the resulting glucose and galactose are easily absorbed and used by the body.

Some of the resident bacteria ferment lactose, producing lactate, small-chain fatty acids, and gases (e.g., methane and ethanol), when it is not fully digested in the small intestine and moves to the large intestine. g natural gas (e.g., hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane) As far as human comfort goes, it’s best if lactose digestion happens in the small intestine and not the large intestine.

Figure 2: Simplified diagram of lactose digestion in the human small and large intestine. If lactose is broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, it can cause unpleasant symptoms; however, lactase activity in the small intestine is preferable.

To begin, let’s define lactose intolerance and assess the magnitude of the issue it presents.

Expectedly, lactase activity is highest at birth, and most newborns have no trouble digesting lactose. The major challenge with lactose digestion is that lactase production decreases with age in nearly three-quarters of the human population, especially between the ages of three and five (Ugidos-Rodriguez et al. 2018), with concentrations being about 10% of what they were in infancy Szilagyi and Ishayek (2018) found that only about a quarter of adults are able to effectively digest lactose into adulthood.

Consumption frequency of lactose is less important than genetics in determining whether or not an individual will continue to produce lactase. Distinct regional and ethnic groups exhibit vastly different ways of life. Lactase deficiency affects over 95% of adults in Southeast Asia but only 10% of adults in Scandinavia (Forsgrd, 2019). Among the Dutch, only 1% are lactose intolerant, but among the Native Americans, it is universal (Silanikova et al. , 2015) With the United States’ diverse population, it’s S Approximately 35% of the adult and adolescent U.S. S are transient in their lactase production (Levitt et al. , 2013), which indicates that they stop making lactase enzyme as adults.

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Lactase expression is controlled by a number of genes in humans. When one homozygous genotype is present, lactase activity is reduced, while when the other is present, lactase activity is normal and stable. People who have one copy of each allele in their DNA are said to still produce lactase, albeit at a reduced rate (Forsgrd, 2019). Even though heterozygous people are more likely to develop lactose intolerance when under stress or infection, they still need only 50% of full lactase activity to effectively utilize lactose in the diet (Lomer et al. , 2008)

If you’re having physical symptoms because lactose isn’t being digested properly, you have lactose intolerance. Diarrhea, nausea, gas, and abdominal pain are all symptoms of lactose intolerance. 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion is typical (Costanzo & Canani, 2018) for the onset of symptoms. Lack of lactase production is not necessarily indicative of true lactose intolerance.

In spite of their sensitivity, some people can actually digest lactose just fine. Despite their lactase deficiency, they can tolerate small amounts of lactose without experiencing serious discomfort. Those who have trouble digesting lactose don’t always feel sick after eating lactose-containing foods

Milk, yogurt, and cheese are all recommended in the updated 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for their high calcium content and other easily digestible nutrients. The recommendations make it clear that lactose-free products are preferable for those who are lactose intolerant, as the guidelines recognize that lactose digestion is a common health challenge. Regardless of a person’s genetic makeup, dairy products and certain soy-based alternatives are encouraged as part of a healthy eating pattern because they provide essential nutrients.

How can lactose intolerance be treated?

If the amount of lactose eaten at one sitting is less than 12 grams, most people who don’t have persistent lactase production will experience few, if any, symptoms. , 2019) You can easily accomplish this. It’s fine to eat moderate amounts of foods that are high in lactose, and to eat a lot of foods that are low in lactose.

Taking lactose with food is a tactic that can be effective in some cases. Symptoms may be alleviated, or at least less severe, by eating foods that have a high fat content because they slow gastric emptying. This explains why whole milk is more well-liked than low-fat milk alternatives (Ugidos-Rodriguez et al. , 2018), despite the fact that there is less than 4% fat

The lactase enzyme is added to some fluid milk and yogurt products during processing to digest lactose. The product’s flavor is altered, but the lactose issue is quickly resolved.

Probiotic bacteria in yogurt and fermented milk products typically contain lactase, an enzyme that facilitates the digestion of lactose. People who consumed 18 grams of lactose in yogurt experienced fewer symptoms than those who consumed the same amount of lactose in fluid milk, according to one study. And because of the slow GI transit time, it was found that more than 90% of the lactose in yogurt was absorbed by the body in the small intestine (Savaiano, 2014).

Especially in the case of cheese, the lactose content of some dairy products can decrease with age. More than 90% of the lactose is removed from the cheesemaking process and placed in the whey (Costa et al. , 2019) The remaining lactose is then digested by the bacteria that aid in the aging processes of cheeses, allowing for the development of flavor and harder textures. Lactose levels in aged cheeses are extremely low.

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If nothing else helps, you can always try supplementing with lactase enzyme. Even though its usefulness is widespread, its duration of effect is typically short. Taking it 5-30 minutes before eating a lactose-containing meal is recommended (Fassio et al. , 2018)

Figure 3: Nutrition information for plain, Greek yogurt made with whole milk. A single serving of this yogurt has only 4 grams of sugar, well below the 12 gram threshold at which many lactose-intolerant people experience symptoms. This yogurt’s fat content may help with lactose digestion because it was made with whole milk.

Even though lactose information is typically lacking on nutrition labels, total sugar content and the list of ingredients can still be useful indicators. According to some estimates, a single cup (or 8 ounces) of whole milk that hasn’t been pasteurized or filtered to remove sugars contains about 12 grams of lactose (sugar). Many common foods and drinks have sugar added to them (e. g products (such as chocolate milk and flavored yogurt) are unlikely to contain lactose.

Listed below is a table that provides a quick reference to the average lactose content of some widely consumed dairy products.

Form of Merchandise Value of lactose in a single serving Comments Skim milk ~12g Whole milk ~12g Casein-free milk (e g , Lactaid Affirmed by Trademarks “®” and “Fairlife®” Very low Ingredients lists often include the lactase enzyme. Large amounts of sugars may still be listed on the nutrition label, but they are likely glucose and galactose, produced when the lactase enzyme breaks down lactose. Yogurt Variable Active cultures are found in some probiotic yogurts. It’s possible that the bacteria help break down the lactose, and that’s not the only health benefit they provide. Ice cream Under 6g Creamy ricotta In the range of 6g In the case of cottage cheese The value is lower than 4g. Creme cheese The value is lower than 2g. Melted mozzarella Amounting to less than 1g Sharp cheddar 0.1 g or less Early on in the cheesemaking process, when the curds (mostly protein bound with any fat in the milk) are separated from the whey, the majority of the lactose is eliminated. A cheese that has been aged and is now hard and g The presence of lactic acid bacteria during ripening causes aged cheeses (e.g., cheddar, provolone) to have an exceptionally low lactose content. Most hard cheeses contain less than 1 gram of lactose per ounce (Levitt et al. , 2013) Grated Parmesan Trace Butter Weight: 0.1g or less Butter is created from the cream that is typically removed from milk before any of the sugars or other ingredients are added.

Information gathered from, Costanzo & Canani (2019), and Lomer et al. , 2008

Is lactose intolerance the only food allergy people can have?

Research conducted by Casellas et al. Researchers in Spain found in 2016 that people’s subjective perception (a general feeling) of lactose intolerance is more influential than objective determination of intolerance in their decision to avoid dairy consumption. All 580 study subjects had a preexisting suspicion of lactose maldigestion, with 56% self-identifying as lactose intolerant. Only 45% were determined to be malabsorbers after a routine diagnostic test. Half of the patients who were found to have lactose tolerance after the diagnostic test falsely reported that they did not, and more than 60% of these patients were eating less dairy than they would have liked or not eating dairy at all.

Some people are allergic to the proteins found in cow milk, as opposed to the carbohydrates found in lactose. In infants and young children, this is one of the most common types of food allergy (Costanzo & Canani, 2018). Infants and young children are disproportionately affected by cow-milk allergies. There is evidence to suggest that lactose intolerance may be misunderstood as an intolerance to one of the beta caseins found in milk (A1). (Szilagyi & Ishayek, 2018;, 2015) Even though this has become a prominent topic of study, more investigation is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn.

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Many people experience symptoms similar to lactose intolerance due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). However, there is no correlation between lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS; Lomer et al. , 2008)

You should consult a doctor if you suspect you have lactose intolerance or any of the other conditions listed here. An individual’s condition can be diagnosed in a number of ways, and the optimal way to manage diet and lifestyle can be chosen from among several options.

In conclusion, many people avoid dairy products due to the fear of experiencing gastrointestinal distress. It’s possible that this isn’t always the case. The presence of lactose in the diet could be to blame if this is the case. Some people who are lactose intolerant due to genetics can still enjoy dairy products by carefully selecting those items. Numerous alternatives can be considered.

Any mention of brand names is not meant to be offensive, and does not constitute an endorsement by Penn State Extension.


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Costa, A N. Lopez-Villalobos Sneddon, N. W L. Shalloo Franzoi, Michael , M. de Marchi with Penasa M (2019) Review article: Milk lactose: where we are now and where we need to go with dairy cattle Research published in Journal of Dairy Science 102:5883–5898

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Author: McDonald, S. (2020) Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Lactose Intolerance) An Expansion of Penn State

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Author(s): Szilagyi, A. A. Ishayek, N. (2018) A discussion of lactose intolerance, dairy avoidance, and available treatments. NEUTRIENTS, Vol. 10, No. 10, 1994–2023.

Scientist Ugidos-Rodriguez , Matallana-Gómez, M C as well as M. Sánchez-Mata C (2018) An overview of lactose intolerance and lactose malabsorption 9(40):4056-4068, Food & Function.

Cow Milk Lactose and Human Digestion
– how ?

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