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Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1998 Sep 19;128(38):1393-400.

[Lactose in human nutrition].

[Article in German]

Author information

Institut für Physiologie und Biochemie der Ernährung, Bundesanstalt für Milchforschung, Kiel.


The disaccharide lactose is naturally present as a component of foods 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. In most people lactase activity decreases at the age of approximately 2 years of age. After this lactose intake can cause symptoms of bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain and diarrhoea due to the lactose reaching the large intestine. This phenomenon is called lactose intolerance. It is generally recommended that these people abandon the consumption of milk and dairy products. However, most lactose-intolerant people are able to digest small amounts of milk (approximately 200 ml). They can also consume cheese without (hard and semi-hard cheese) or only low lactose content (only present in 10% of soft cheese). These products are a very important source of calcium.

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