[Lactose intolerance and consumption of milk and milk products].Z Ernahrungswiss 1997; 36(4):375-93ZE
The disaccharide lactose is present as a natural component of foods only in milk and dairy products. In the gastrointestinal tract, lactose is hydrolysed by the enzyme beta-galactosidase (lactase) into glucose and galactose. These components are absorbed. With the exception of the caucasian race, the lactase activity decreases in most people at an age of 4 to 6 years. Lactose intake can cause symptoms of bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, and diarrhea due to the lactose reaching the large intestine. This phenomenon is called lactose intolerance. It is generally recommended to those persons that they refrain from the consumption of milk and dairy products. However, most lactose intolerant people are able to digest small amounts of milk. They can also consume cheese that contains no (hard and semi-hard) or only small amounts of lactose (present in only 10% of soft cheeses). These products are very important sources of calcium. Compared to milk, the lactose content of yogurt is usually lower by about one third. Studies during the last 10 years have shown that in spite of its lactose content yogurt is very well tolerated by lactose intolerant persons. This advantage is ascribed to the presence of living lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy products which survive passage through the stomach and also to the lactase present in these products.