What is lactose and how to stop being afraid of it

Health 2023
What is lactose and how to stop being afraid of it
What is lactose and how to stop being afraid of it

Today we live surrounded by many food fears: dyes, preservatives, GMOs, fats, sugars and gluten are about to become the heroes, if not of horror films, then of an action-packed culinary detective story. Recently, they have been trying to add lactose to the list of antiheroes. Let's see if it really is so scary, and what is lactose intolerance.

What is lactose and how to stop being afraid of it
What is lactose and how to stop being afraid of it


Yes, that's what they call a carbohydrate of the disaccharide group, which is part of milk and many dairy products. But do not be afraid of the word "sugar": unlike glucose and fructose, milk lactose does not cause a sharp jump in blood sugar levels and does not start the process of fat deposition. In the course of evolution, humans have adapted to drinking cow's milk, so lactose, unlike the refined sugars that we began to eat quite recently, has been familiar to us for several millennia.


In the first months of life, humans and mammals receive the only suitable food - mother's milk. That is, it is an ideal product with a balanced amount of proteins, fats, sugars and vitamins, which is easily digestible. It is a convenient source of energy that gives everything the cells of our body need. And the presence of lactose in it is no coincidence.


Lactose has in its composition galactose, called "sugar for the brain." Galactose is one of the key elements responsible for the intellectual development of the child and for the preservation of long-term memory in adults. Fresh, unboiled milk also contains many enzymes that help improve food digestibility, strengthen immunity, and increase resistance to seasonal colds and viruses. But the benefits of lactose are not limited to this. In the process of isomerization, lactose is obtained from lactose - a drug that is used to treat pathologies of the gastrointestinal tract.


The enzyme lactase is responsible for the digestion of lactose. Newborn children, due to the immaturity of the intestines, may lack this enzyme, then lactose from mother's milk will not be absorbed partially or completely. This condition is called "lactase deficiency". Depending on the degree of lactase deficiency, the doctor offers several options for the mother of the child. First: continue to feed the baby, as before, waiting for the production of the enzyme to improve (usually this happens by the age of three months). Second: before feeding, give the child breast milk mixed with lactase - a pharmacological form in powder. The third one, which is not as popular these days, is ditching breastfeeding in favor of lactose-free formula.


In rare cases, children do not "outgrow" the lactase deficiency. In addition, a certain percentage of people with adulthood experience problems with the production of lactase, which causes lactose intolerance. The circle of these people, as a rule, includes representatives of nationalities that traditionally did not breed cows and do not have the gene, thanks to which a person adapted to cow's milk. For example, the Japanese practically do not eat dairy products, and even a piece of butter can cause them to vomit, while the Dutch and Swedes calmly drink a black bread sandwich with herring with milk and often do not realize that this could deliver someone digestive problems. And all because in Japan, Latin America and a number of African countries, the vast majority of the adult population is lactose intolerant. In such European countries as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the percentage of such people is no more than 5%.

In Russia it is difficult to assess the level of lactose intolerance due to the extended geography and a large number of different ethnic groups. However, most residents of the central regions should not experience problems with high lactose.

Svetlana Viktovskaya, representative of the Cheburashkin Brothers. Family farm":

"If you've been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, there's nothing to worry about: a lot of dairy products are lactose-free. First of all, these are the products of lactic fermentation, during which milk sugar turns into lactic acid: kefir, all kinds of yogurts and some types of cheese.”


Often people confuse lactose intolerance with the effect of the wrong combination of milk with other products. To avoid problems with the gastrointestinal tract, you should avoid drinking milk along with raw vegetables and fruits. But vegetable and fruit dishes based on fermented milk products are very useful and digestible well: okroshka on kefir, beetroot, cottage cheese with fresh fruits, yogurt with frozen berries. Photo: Fotomedia, photos by the authors.

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