Lactase Deficiency - Yogurt Helps

~ December 1999 No.90 ~

For most of us a large glass of cold milk, a milk shake or even a dish of custard is a treat that not only tastes good, but also can be part of a good diet. Dairy products can be found as an important component of all nutritional recommendations. Milk is an inexpensive source of high quality protein as well as being one of the more important sources of calcium in the diet. However, many people are unable to consume dairy products because of a lactase deficiency.

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The term lactose intolerant is often used, but the correct term is lactase deficiency. Lactose or milk sugar, is made up of two sugars bonded together - glucose and galactose. Lactase is the enzyme found in the human gastrointestinal tract that is capable of breaking the two sugars apart. This is followed by absorption into the body, where the two sugars are used either intact or are metabolised for other uses. The level and activity of lactase in the intestines is usually high enough to prevent the build-up of lactose. People who are lactase deficient can’t break down the lactose and this results in bloating, cramps and diarrhea Most lactase deficient people have learned over the years either to avoid milk products or to consume them in small quantities to prevent the symptoms.

Researchers have shown that yogurt that contains live bacteria may be one way of overcoming lactase deficiency. Yogurt contains lactose because it is a milk product, but the bacteria in yogurt possess the lactase enzyme. Apparently enough bacteria survive passage through the stomach so that the lactose in yogurt is broken down in the intestines and absorbed. In experiments, scientists have shown that yogurt with live bacteria help overcome lactase deficiency, but yogurt with killed bacteria don’t. Yogurt is therefore considered as a probiotic. Unfortunately, the bacteria found in most yogurts are not normally found in human intestines. After a meal of yogurt, the yogurt bacteria do not colonize the intestines where they could be useful, but are eliminated from the body. However, for those who are lactase deficient, eating yogurt regularly may be a good way of getting servings of milk products into their diet.

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Last modified

July 22 2015