Amongst the many food and beverage items that are currently stripping themselves of their main ingredient, think Sliced Bread (gluten free), Coke (sugar free), Peanut Butter (fat free) to name a few, Cow’s Milk seems to be taking the lead. In September 2015 Amul launched its first lactose free carton of milk in India to cater to those with lactose intolerance and similar dietary problems. Like with all other food innovations, the central question arises of how healthy is lactose free milk?
Lactose is a complex sugar present in milk. It is broken down by our digestive system into glucose and galactose which gives us energy. Mother’s Milk (Breast Milk) contains approximately 7% lactose whereas animal milk (Cow / Goat) contains approximately 5% lactose.
Why Does It Trouble Us?
Our digestive system secretes an enzyme called Lactase which helps in digesting lactose present in milk. A person becomes lactose intolerant when their system cannot produce sufficient amounts of lactase. This intolerance can be mild in the form of boating and indigestion or severe in some case which result in hives and at times can even lead to death.
How is Lactose Free Milk different?
Lactose free milk contains less than 1% of lactose. Manufacturers artificially add Lactase enzymes to regular cow milk to digest most of the lactose present and break them down into simple sugars. Therefore, lactose free milk tends to have a slightly sweeter taste than regular milk.
What are the benefits?
Lactose free milk is a great alternative for those suffering from lactose intolerance because it provides you with all the same nutrients and vitamins (Calcium, Vitamin D and Potassium) as regular cow milk. Further, the additive (lactase) used is naturally present in our system and so an additional dose of it, especially when your body isn’t producing sufficient amounts, is not typically harmful.
Should I Make the Switch?
Only those suffering from lactose intolerance should typically switch to lactose free milk. Those following vegan diets cannot consume this milk because it does come from an animal. Lactose Free milk in no way aids weight loss or improves one’s health drastically, especially so if they are not actually lactose intolerant. Therefore, while it is definitely a healthier option to consuming a synthetic nut milk (think chocolate flavoured, B12 fortified soy milk), it is not likely to create a significant impact alone.