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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;56 Suppl 4:S50-5.

Fermentation, fermented foods and lactose intolerance.

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Center for Studies of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism (CeSSIAM), Guatemala City, Guatemala.


Lactose (milk sugar) is a fermentable substrate. It can be fermented outside of the body to produce cheeses, yoghurts and acidified milks. It can be fermented within the large intestine in those people who have insufficient expression of lactase enzyme on the intestinal mucosa to ferment this disaccharide to its absorbable, simple hexose sugars: glucose and galactose. In this way, the issues of lactose intolerance and of fermented foods are joined. It is only at the extremes of life, in infancy and old age, in which severe and life-threatening consequences from lactose maldigestion may occur. Fermentation as part of food processing can be used for preservation, for liberation of pre-digested nutrients, or to create ethanolic beverages. Almost all cultures and ethnic groups have developed some typical forms of fermented foods. Lessons from fermentation of non-dairy items may be applicable to fermentation of milk, and vice versa.

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