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Most people do not eat/drink dairy products such as ice cream or milkshakes. The reason is simple: They are lactose intolerant. However, in certain parts of the world milk is a crucial part of a healthy breakfast. Here, people are able to drink milk without getting intoxicated. Why is that?
Today’s topic is lactose!
Lactose is a disaccharide and is only present in mammalian milk. After eating or drinking a dairy product, lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose.
Lactose intolerance is a condition which is characterized by a variety of symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or vomiting. All of these symptoms are caused by the fermentation of lactose by bacteria in the gut.
In lactose tolerant people, lactose is broken down by lactase which is found at the surface of the gut. Contrary to lactose intolerant people, lactose tolerant people produce lactase in high amounts throughout their lives. The underlying reasons are small mutations which were developed about 10 000 years ago. Although these mutations are not found in the gene which produces lactase itself, it still has a crucial effect on the production of lactase as it attracts many proteins to the gene.
Currently, there is no cure for lactose intolerance. However, treatments include the acoidance of dairy product, the administration of exogenous oral enzymes or probiotics. A few years ago first beneficial effects of exogenous enzymes were demonstrated (although further studies have yet to be conducted to increase these effects). Probiotics induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi in the gut. In this manner, lactose is broken down in fast fashion, thereby alleviating symptoms.
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For your further research:
Lomer, M. C. E., Parkes, G. C., & Sanderson, J. D. (2008). lactose intolerance in clinical practice–myths and realities. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 27(2), 93-103.
Levri, K. M., Ketvertis, K., Deramo, M., Merenstein, J. H., & D’Amico, F. (2005). Do probiotics reduce adult lactose intolerance? A systematic review.(APPLIED EVIDENCE: New research findings that are changing clinical practice. Journal of Family Practice, 54(7), 613-621.
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About Clemens Steinek:
CLEMENS STEINEK is a postgraduate student/youtuber (LifeLabLearner) who is currently conducting stem cell research in Germany.