Biological substances such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins and nucleic acids play an important role for proper metabolism in all living organisms. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy. They are polymeric forms of monosaccharides. Depending on the taste, they are classified as sugar-like and non-sugar-like. Sugar molecules are usually sweet and well divorced in water.
This is glucose, fructose. In contrast, non-sugar is not able to dissolve and is not sweet. Starch, fiber and other similar substances belong to this type. Depending on the amount of simple elements in the carbohydrate, monosaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides are distinguished. One example of oligosaccharides is lactose.
- 1 What is lactose?
- 2 Lactose digestion
- 3 Biological role
- 4 Impact on the body: harm and benefit
- 5 Lactose intolerance
- 6 Causes of Intolerance
- 7 How to determine the presence of lactose intolerance
- 8 Products containing lactose
- 9 How to avoid lactose
- 10 Several arguments in favor of milk sugar
- 11 Lactose intolerance treatment
- 12 Lactose in the food industry
- 13 Other applications
What is lactose?
Lactose is one of the most important classes of carbohydrates, they are optically active compounds with hydroxyl and carboxyl groups.
There are mono-, oligosaccharide carbohydrates (oligo – “several”) and polysaccharides. Oligosaccharides, in turn, are classified as:
Lactose (chemical formula – С12Н22О11), together with sucrose and maltose, is one of the disaccharides. As a result of hydrolysis, it is transformed into two saccharides, glucose and galactose.
For the first time, lactose was talked about in 1619, when Italian Fabritscio Bartoletti discovered a new substance. But only in 1780, the chemist from Sweden, Karl Wilhelm Scheel, identified the substance as sugar. This disaccharide is present in cow’s milk (about 4-6 percent) and in women’s (from 5 to 8 percent of the composition). Milk sugar is also formed during the production of cheese – as a by-product, and is a white solid.
In nature, in particular in milk, this sugar is represented as lactose monohydrate, a carbohydrate with an attached water molecule. Pure lactose is a white, odorless, crystalline powder that dissolves well in water, but reacts weakly with alcohols. During heating, the disaccharide loses one water molecule and thus anhydrous lactose is created.
As already noted, in milk the proportion of this carbohydrate is approximately 6 percent of the total composition. Once in the body along with dairy products, lactose is exposed to enzymes, and then enters the blood. However, there are times when the body is not able to digest milk sugar because it cannot produce the lactase enzyme necessary for breakdown. And with age, as scientific experience shows, people are increasingly at risk of lack or complete lack of lactase, which causes complete intolerance to dairy products.
It is believed that humanity has domesticated cattle about 8 thousands of years ago. And only after that dairy products appeared in the diet of an ancient person. More precisely, not so. Since that time, dairy products have appeared in the diet of adults. Since earlier exclusively infants fed on milk and exclusively on mothers. That is why it is inherent in nature that babies have practically no problems with the assimilation of milk food, since lactase is produced regularly and correctly in their organisms.
Ancient people in adulthood were completely devoid of lactase and did not feel any discomfort from it. And only after introducing milk into the diet, most people experienced a kind of mutation – the body began to produce the enzyme necessary for digesting lactose in adulthood.
Despite scientific debate about the benefits of lactose for an adult, this saccharide plays an important role in the functioning of the body. Only getting into the oral cavity, affects the consistency of saliva – gives it a characteristic viscosity. In addition, it promotes more active absorption of B-group vitamins, ascorbic acid and calcium. And getting into the intestine, activates the reproduction of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which are important for the proper functioning of the body.
Impact on the body: harm and benefit
Lactose is a disaccharide that can affect the human body in different ways.
Someone he is harmful, and someone is good.
Lactose for …
All carbohydrates are sources of energy. Lactose also serves as a kind of fuel for humans. Once ingested, it is metabolized and promotes the release of energy. In addition, the consumption of milk sugar, so to speak, protects the body’s protein reserves. In the presence of a sufficient amount of carbohydrates, including lactose, the body does not use proteins as fuel, but accumulates them in muscles. Also allows proteins to perform other equally important functions in the body.
… weight gain
If the amount of calories consumed exceeds the amount of burning, the excess is stored in the form of fat. When lactose is consumed in larger quantities than necessary, the body transforms sugar into fatty tissue, which will subsequently lead to weight gain. This ability of milk sugar is used when it is necessary to adjust body weight upwards.
Before lactose is converted into energy, it must enter the alimentary canal, where it decomposes into monosaccharides under the influence of the enzyme. However, if the body does not produce enough lactase, there may be dysfunction of the digestive tract. Undigested milk sugar causes upset stomach, including abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to absorb milk sugar.
The primary symptoms of intolerance:
- pain in the stomach;
There are several options for laboratory testing that will help determine the presence of intolerance to this type of carbohydrate. Of course, in this case, it is easiest to refuse dairy food. But a complete rejection of milk can cause a deficiency of calcium and vitamin D, which in turn will cause bone disease. Therefore, there are various dietary supplements that allow you to consume at least the smallest portions of milk.
Causes of Intolerance
Lactase deficiency can be congenital. Usually this happens in humans because of changes at the gene level.
In addition, intolerance may occur as a result of diseases, including those accompanied by destruction of the mucous membrane of the small intestine. Also signs of intolerance may appear with age or against the background of serious bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.
One of the most common causes of lactase deficiency is the result of genetic programming. Nature laid down a “program” in which the amount of lactase produced decreases with age. And by the way, in different ethnic groups the intensity and speed of this decrease are different. The highest indicator of lactose intolerance is fixed among the inhabitants of Asia. Almost 90 percent of the adult Asian population does not tolerate milk. But for people in northern Europe, hypolactasia is a very rare problem: only 5 percent of adults feel a lack of an enzyme.
And yet: two concepts should be distinguished – lactose intolerance and lactase deficiency. People with moderate enzyme deficiency, as a rule, do not even notice discomfort after consuming dairy foods. With a deficiency of lactase, the concentration of the enzyme in the intestine decreases, without causing side effects. But intolerance is accompanied by pronounced symptoms of non-perception of milk by the body. They occur after the uncleaved disaccharide enters the small intestine and intestine. But, unfortunately, the symptoms of intolerance may resemble other gastrointestinal diseases, because it is solely on these grounds that it is difficult to diagnose lactose non-perception.
There are three main types of lactose intolerance:
- Primary. This is the most common type. It occurs with age. It is explained by the physiological features of the body. Over the years, people consume less and less dairy food, which means that the need for lactase production is eliminated. This type of intolerance is most common among people in Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean and the Americas.
- Secondary. Occurs as a result of illness or injury. Most often after celiac disease, inflammation of the intestine, surgery on the small intestine. Other causes of intolerance include Crohn’s disease, Whipple’s disease, ulcerative colitis, chemotherapy, and even flu with complications.
- Temporary. This type of intolerance occurs in premature babies. It is explained by the fact that only after the 34 week of gestation, the fetus is responsible for the production of the enzyme lactase.
How to determine the presence of lactose intolerance
Independently determine lactose intolerance is not so easy. Many people think that it is enough to refuse dairy products to avoid unpleasant consequences. In fact, in modern foods, lactose is not only found in jelly. Some people refuse milk completely, but the symptoms of indigestion do not go away. It is therefore not surprising that they mistakenly eliminate lactose intolerance from the list of possible causes of indigestion.
At home, you can check the tolerance / intolerance using the test. So, on the day before the test, the last meal – no later than 18 hours. Then in the morning on an empty stomach, drink a glass of milk and again do not eat anything for 3-5 hours. In the presence of lactose intolerance, symptoms should appear as soon as 30 minutes after taking the product or a maximum of 2 hours. And further. It is better for testing to take skim milk in order to exclude the possibility that fats caused indigestion.
Products containing lactose
The most obvious sources of lactose are dairy products. You can be sure that by consuming milk, yoghurts, sour cream, cheeses, you will definitely get lactose.
But there is a list of less obvious sources. And to be more precise – very unexpected. Now analyze the list of products that contain milk sugar.
Dairy products are not only the most obvious sources of lactose, but also the most concentrated of these carbohydrates. A glass of milk, for example, contains about 12 grams of lactose. But the cheese, one portion of which is filled with less than 1 of milk sugar, is already considered a product with a low content of the substance (cheddar, parmesan, ricotta, Swiss). In fermented dairy products such as yogurt, the concentration of lactose is also not the lowest. But due to the presence in their composition of enzymes that destroy the disaccharide, transferred more easily.
An alternative to cow milk can be lactose-free soy milk and other vegetable analogues of milk. Also, when hypolactasia milk can be replaced by fermented milk products. In kefir, for example, the concentration of carbohydrate is reduced, due to the presence of the correct enzyme in its composition.
A small amount of milk sugar can be found in bakery products, breakfast mixes. This substance is also in chips and dry soups. In addition, buying margarine, dressing for salads, should be ready to consume lactose, albeit in small portions. To determine the presence of saccharide in a particular product will help answer the question: “How was this product prepared?”.
Many foods to extend shelf life are treated with milk and dairy products. Therefore, it is important for people with lactose intolerance to read food labels carefully. The presence among the ingredients of milk, whey, cottage cheese, dairy by-products, milk powder, skim milk indicates the presence of lactose.
Hidden sources of milk sugar:
Many drugs as a filler contain lactose, which improves the bioavailability of the drug and its taste. In particular, there is milk sugar in birth control pills and in vitamin D. But, as a rule, in these preparations carbohydrate is presented in very small portions. So even people with intolerance to substances normally respond to medication.
- Processed grains.
Waffles, biscuits, crackers, bread, potato chips, muesli, cereals also often include lactose. And you need to be ready for people whose body does not have the enzyme lactase.
- Processed meat.
Meat is probably the last product that you could think of as the source of lactose. But, nevertheless, processed meat in the form of bacon, sausages, sausages and other products is not without milk sugar.
- Instant coffee, “quick” soups.
Do you like coffee and soups or potatoes, for the preparation of which it is enough just to add boiling water? Then know that you get lactose with them. Why in these products milk sugar? It provides texture to the product, prevents clumping, and of course gives a special flavor.
Many salad dressings contain lactose, which gives the product the necessary texture and taste. If you want to avoid excess portions of milk sugar, then it is better to use vegetable oil, such as olive oil, as a dressing. In addition, it is a more useful product than the finished refueling.
- Artificial sweeteners.
Some of these sugar substitutes contain lactose. Thanks to it, sweeteners in the form of tablets or powder dissolve more quickly in food.
Some types of alcohol also contain milk sugar. Especially high concentration of the substance – in milk-based liqueurs. So alcohol also belongs to the number of products whose composition may be of interest to people with milk sugar intolerance.
Many people are absolutely sure that margarine is a completely vegetable substitute for butter, which means there can be no dairy ingredients in it. In fact, most fats in this category contain lactose, which improves the taste of margarine.
Dairy sugar content table
|Product Name (glass)||Lactose (g)|
|Sour cream (20 percent)||8|
How to avoid lactose
So, the only way to avoid lactose in foods from stores is to read labels carefully. You should not hope that the manufacturer will write on all products: “Contains lactose”. In fact, this substance in the composition of food may hide under other names, for example: whey, casein, cottage cheese, milk powder. But at the same time, you need to know that similar names – lactate and lactic acid – are completely different ingredients that are not related to lactose.
Bodybuilders are also not insured against milk sugar intolerance. But most protein shakes contain milk. Therefore, sports nutrition manufacturers have created lactose-free protein., which, however, can be consumed by all people with a lack of lactase.
Several arguments in favor of milk sugar
Many people speak of lactose solely as a harmful substance. Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that these carbohydrates are contained in milk – in the product, which, according to nature, mammals feed their newborns. And logically, this food should have many beneficial properties.
The advantages of milk sugar:
- galactose, which is part of lactose, is one of 8 essential sugars for the body;
- supports immunity, promotes the production of antibodies;
- galactose, a component of lactose, is called sugar for the brain, in particular, it is important for babies;
- galactose – prevention against cancer and cataracts;
- improves wound healing;
- accelerates the metabolism and absorption of calcium;
- protects against X-rays;
- important for people with arthritis and lupus;
- prophylactic against cardiac diseases;
- lactose – low-calorie sweetener;
- the glycemic index of lactose is more than 2 times lower than that of glucose, which is useful for diabetics;
- stimulates the nervous system;
- lactose has a positive effect on the intestinal microflora, stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Lactose intolerance treatment
Currently, there are no ways to treat milk sugar intolerance, except for the consumption of the lactase enzyme in the form of tablets. The only thing that can help people with such a disorder is to limit the consumption of products containing lactose. It is believed that about half a cup of milk (contains about 4,5 g of saccharide) still does not cause the effects of intolerance. Also, consuming dairy products, it is better to give preference to low-fat food or with a low content of lipids, since their concentration of lactose, as a rule, is lower. For babies with intolerance to milk sugar, there is an infant formula without lactose..
Sometimes people mistakenly call lactose intolerance a milk allergy. In fact, these are two different diseases. The only thing for them is that dairy food, as a rule, causes unpleasant consequences. Meanwhile, allergy is accompanied by a rash on the skin, itching, runny nose, which is never the case with hypolactasia. The main difference between both diseases in the cause of occurrence. Allergies talk about problems with the immune system, lactose intolerance – about the lack of an enzyme.
Lactose in the food industry
Modern food industry has learned to use lactose, not only in the composition of dairy products. This type of carbohydrate is found in glazes, plays the role of a filler in bakery products, is in cookies, pancakes and cereals. It is used as a food additive, and since it does not have a pronounced taste, it is used in many categories of food. This substance can be found in frozen and canned vegetables, as it prevents loss of color. Lactose is found in dry soups, wholemeal flour and many other products.
Today, lactose is used not only in the food industry. In addition to the preparation of various products, including infant formula and breast milk substitutes, chemists use lactose in their work. Also, this saccharide serves as a feed vitamin, and in microbiology it serves as a medium for growing various sorts of bacteria and cells.
Lactose is one of the representatives of a large carbohydrate family, a substance that is very useful for both children and adults.
And to say that this disaccharide is harmful to humans, only because some individuals have inborn intolerance to the substance, at least, is incorrect. Hypolactasia is just a disease that in no way deprives lactose of its beneficial properties. Although, however, you already know about it.