Monday, August 31, 2009

What's the Beef With Milk Sugar?

Do you eat or drink milk products?

Did you know that there is a naturally occurring "sugar" in milk, called lactose? Lactase is an enzyme in our bodies that allows us to digest this milk sugar.

Ever heard of an allergy to milk? Apparently, it's not an allergy after all because there is, "not an immune response". (USA Today)

A milk "allergy"is more correctly defined as lactose intolerance: "Lactose intolerance is the inability to metabolize lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products, because the required enzyme lactase is absent in the intestinal system or its availability is lowered. It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood."

I came across an interesting article about milk sugar that discusses this in more detail:

"People who are lactose intolerant can't digest the main sugar -lactose- found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so -lactase- stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea."

For more information than you ever wanted to know about lactase, the enzyme (that we don't all have, and have in differing amounts) allowing us to digest milk products, check out this article in the European Journal of Human Genetics. "Most people cannot drink milk as adults without the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and most lactose intolerance is due to absence of the lactase enzyme in the gut."

I'll continue to get my "natural" sugars elsewhere.


KitchenSink said...

I hate drinking cow's milk and will opt for almond when I can...but I just read that the change in cow's milk made by cultures when it is made into yogurt makes it a "good" food or at least less mucous forming.

More fascinating still is that I was reading about it moments before I read this most recent I think it's uncanny...

anastasia_wolf said...

That is incorrect. You can have an allergy to milk proteins. It is not as common as lactose intolerance but it does occur as an allergy with all the hallmarks of allergic reaction.

K.Rae said...

I have a t-cell mediated reaction to milk. AND i'm lactose intolerant. milk doesn't do the body good :(

Holly said...

I love milk- couldn't live without it and I know I'll be thankful in old age that I am not hunched over and crippled. It may not be right for everyone, but I choose to keep dairy a part of my diet, daily.

My Year Without said...

KitchenSink-That is uncanny! I have eaten "Nancy's" yogurt off and on and I like it because it's really high in acidophilus and she uses a little honey to sweeten with or none at all. Honestly, my goal is to find milk substitutes....for my coffee, my cereal, cream soups, etc.

anastasia-I'm definitely not the expert on milk!

KRae-Interesting. What sorts of milk substitutes do you use?

Holly-Again, I'm not an expert on milk, but I am annoyed by the Dairy Council ads trying to convince us that milk is the nectar of life. There are so many other ways to get calcium, which is really important to the large percentage of people who are lactose intolerant.

According the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, these are the calcium absorption rates for the following foods:
"brussel sprouts: 63.8 percent
mustard greens 57.8 percent
broccoli 52.6 percent
turnip greens 51.6 percent
kale 50 percent
cow's milk 32 percent"
(The Food Revolution, by John Robbins, pg. 101)

Also, the American Journal of Public Health published a study called "Milk, Dietary Calcium, and Bone Fractures in Women..." and concluded that there was "no evidence at all that higher intakes of milk reduced osteoporosis or bone fracture incidence. In fact, the study found that the relative risk of hip fracture for women who drink two glasses or more of milk per day was 1.45 times higher than for those who drink one glass or less per week."
(The Food Revolution, pg. 98)

Robyn said...

Wow, I am so glad I found your blog. In Jan of 2008 I also quit eating refined sugar and lasted a good 8 months. I fell off the wagon and went down hill. I started again today and will use some of your recipes and advice.

K.Rae said...

I haven't felt a need for milk substitutes. I just avoided the things we associate with milk: cereal, coffee, etc.

I found a doctor who offers treatment for allergies, and I can now tolerate milk in a cappuccino or even small amounts of ice cream (just a couple of years ago, I couldn't keep ice cream down). The lactose intolerance thing is still an issue though.

I'm definitely with you that dairy is not necessary to avoid osteoporosis. Vitamin D and exercise are much more important.

Kendra said...

We learned much about lactose/milk sugar when our son had a bad reaction to it, oddly enough he and I can not eat any form of refined sugar either.. But, did you know that raw milk has no lactose? Lactose is made present when the milk is cooked, ie pasteurized.

My Year Without said...

Robyn-Good for you for starting up again! Let me know how it goes this time around, and if I can be of more help!

K.Rae-Yeah...I tried giving up coffee again, but didn't notice a huge benefit to NOT drinking it (1 little cup a day!) so now I'm happily back drinking my morning jo with a little unsweetened, organic vanilla almond milk. It's perfect.

Kendra-Hmmmm, like I've mentioned before, I'm no milk expert, but I believe that lactose is present in all milk, including raw milk. I'm curious where you got your information that pasteurizing milk caused it to appear? I just copied this statement from wikipedia, "Infant mammals nurse on their mothers to drink milk, which is rich in the carbohydrate lactose."
Anyway, that's interesting!

Kendra said...

I know it sounds weird, I was skeptical when I first heard it too.. You can read more about it Here and in the book entitled Real Food What To Eat & Why. It's not a quick read, but it is interesting and includes information about not eating refined and sugary.. By the way, I've been enjoying your blog for a long time. I stumbled upon it last year when I was desperately searching for sugar-free recipes. I not keep my own recipe bank going (many of which I've created) because there was so little out there when we gave up sugar.

Alana said...

Our family switched to raw milk last spring. Now, we don't touch the pasturized stuff with a ten foot pole. We also turn a good bit of that raw milk into raw kefir. Raw milk is very different from pasteurized (read: processed) milk.

pixiepine said...

One of the main reasons I went from vegetarian to vegan is the dairy issue. I am lactose intolerant as all get-out. It is wonderful to just use almond/rice/hemp etc. milk and vegan stuff rather than fight illness and use OTC drugs to cope with dairy.