Lactose is a sugar that is commonly found in many types of milk. It is formed by galactose and glucose and was first discovered in 1619 by Fabriccio Bartoletti. However, it wasn’t shown to be a sugar until 1780 when Carl Wilhelm Scheele showed this to be the case. In the human body lactose is digested by an enzyme called lactase which is produced in the intestine. However, some people have an insufficient amount of this enzyme and they may suffer from symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. This condition is known as lactose intolerance and people suffering from this are recommended to avoid foods containing lactose.
List of foods high in lactose
Milk – All animal milk contains lactose, including breastmilk (9%). Unprocessed cow’s milk contains about 4.7% lactose and this is similar to the amount of lactose in goat, sheep, buffalo and yak milk.
Ice Cream – Ice cream contains about 6% lactose.
Cheese – The lactose content of cheese depends entirely on the type of cheese. Some aged cheeses contain virtually no lactose and others retain much of the lactose from milk.
Cream – Traditionally cream contains little lactose, but modern techniques mean that cream may contain high levels of lactose from milk solids.
Yogurt – Contains about 4-6% lactose depending on the type of yogurt. It may be better tolerated though because it naturally contains lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose).
Butter – Very little lactose and clarified butter has such a low level that it is safe for most lactose intolerant people.
Lactose can also be found in many other products that use whey, milk solids or other milk products as an ingredient. These ingredients can be found in many common foods such as processed meat, gravy powder, margarine, bread, cereal, and other processed foods and sauces. Lactose is also used in many medications.
Did you know?
Lactase supplements are available for those people that don’t produce enough of the enzyme in their intestines. This makes it possible for people suffering from lactose intolerance to eat foods that contain lactose.