Lactose (milk sugar) is a disaccharide, similar to Sucrose (ordinary sugar).
It is made up of two simple sugars - Glucose and Galactose bound together by a glycosidic linkage. Sucrose is similar but has Fructose instead of Galactose in the mix. It is only 15% as sweet as ordinary sugar, but has a glycemic index of 45, close to sugar (65), so diabetics need to be aware of the amount they are ingesting.
Dairy products and meat normally contain only protein and fat - no carbohydrate at all. Lactose is an exception to this rule and it is found in all milk. It is nature's way of providing energy to young who are still dependent on their mother. However many adults have a certain intolerance to this sugar.
It is added to pills in the pharmaceutical industry and is used as an ingredient in the coating and filler of many drugs. It is added to infant formulas. It is used in various processed foods including dried vegetables and chocolate. Can be used in baking to produce a brown crust like ordinary sugar, but without the sweetness. It is commonly used as an illicit cutting agent with drugs such as heroin and cocaine. It is available in powdered form like ordinary sugar, but is no use as a table top sweetener, it is simply not sweet enough.
For adults none really over and above any other sugars. For infants it is the main source of carbohydrate during their early stages of life.
Fairly high glycemic index so diabetics should be aware of the quantities present in food. Lactose intolerance is very common among adults, particularly among certain cultures. The enzyme lactase is required for it's digestion. This enzyme is present in all infants but can rapidly fall off after a few years. This causes the milk sugar to pass on into the intestine where it can lead to the formation of gas.
Symptoms of Intolerance:
1. Discomfort in the abdomen.
2. Bloating and gas.
4. Loose stools.
The above usually occur about 30 minutes after eating or drinking.
For most people an upper guideline would be about 25gm per day, (about 6 small teaspoons) though most people would be very unlikely to exceed this amount..
CSPI (US) Recommendation
The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - CERTAIN PEOPLE SHOULD AVOID
It is a by product of the dairy industry, it is extracted from milk.
Not usually sold on its own, as there would be no real demand in the consumer market. But it is available in bulk on the commercial market.
About twice the price of cane sugar.
Butter and hard cheese contain almost none, it is removed during production. This applies to most yogurt as well because the bacterial culture added to the milk converts most of it into glucose, galactose, and lactic acid. This is one reason why yogurt is healthier than ordinary milk.
Though it might be considered a disorder to be lactose intolerant, in actual fact it is normal for humans and most mammals to lose the ability to digest this sugar as they grow out of infancy. The actual ability to produce the enzyme lactase in adulthood is a mutation of which there are two different types. The more common is the European gene mutation which results in over 90% being able to digest milk. The other is the Masai tribe from Africa, who possess a different gene mutation.
Obviously as both groups domesticated animals, those with the mutation has a survival advantage and were more likely to produce offspring, and pass on the gene.
Does not require approval.
It is an important carbohydrate during infant development, and all milk including human milk contains it. However intolerance is common among adults. The symptoms are cramps, bloating and flatulence. A test similar to a Glucose test can check the response by measuring the production of Hydrogen in the breath. Well worth doing if intolerance is suspected. Many supermarkets are now carrying special cow's milk suitable for people with intolerance. During the processing a small amount of the enzyme lactase is added. This breaks down the sugar resulting in a slightly sweeter taste, and no unwanted side effects.
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