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5 things you didn’t know about lactose

By Staff | Sep 20, 2013

If you catch yourself reading food and drink labels, odds are you’ve probably read it for the jug/carton of moo juice in your fridge. One of the ingredients in milk is lactose, a form of sugar.

You’ve probably heard of lactose intolerance. If not, lactose intolerance is a condition where the body lacks an enzyme called lactase, and, as such, the body can’t digest dairy products (or the ones derived from milk anyway).

But there are some things you probably didn’t know about lactose, or milk sugar, and “On Bryce’s Mind” loves trivial knowledge and bits of (dubious as to its amount of use) information. Such as:

5. It’s used in beer: Not all beers are created equal. Other than the standard barley, malt, hops and water, beers can have different ingredients. Some brewers will put lactose into stouts (one type of beer) and for a number of reasons. Among them is that it’s an un-fermentable sugar. This means that it won’t break down during the fermentation process. It also slightly sweetens and adds body to the beer.

4. “Big pharmacy” uses it too: There are lots of things you may not know about the pill you occasionally take. Probably one of them is that lactose may be in it. Lactose is added to pills as a filler ingredient because it’s cheap and can be compressed. If you’ve ever taken Oxycontin, Ibuprofen, Lorazepam, Gabapentin, Concerta, Viagra or Xanax, for example, congratulations, you’ve taken in lactose.

3. It took 100 years for it to be known: Lactose was discovered in 1619 by Fabrizio Bartoletti. However it would take more than 100 years for it to be known as milk sugar. In 1780 Carl Wilhelm Scheele, a German-speaking Swedish chemist, had been making a number of chemical discoveries. It was his efforts that led lactose to be known as a type of sugar.

2. It’s in other foods too: So it’s in milk, some beers, and some pills. Guess where else it is: baked goods; mixes for soup, instant noodles, instant rice, instant mashed potatoes, pancakes, cookies and biscuits; Hershey bars (or any food that says “milk chocolate”; lunch meats; and certain salad dressings and sauces. The only difference is, lactose is only in them in small quantities. And speaking of small quantities:

1. It takes up a small amount of milk by weight: Grab that carton or jug of moo juice again. Note how weighty it may or may not feel. Now, you know lactose is in there, but the label doesn’t say exactly how much is in there. Lactose only takes up anywhere from 0-8% of milk. That means there’s 92% of a bunch of other stuff. (However it’s Saturday, and we may not feel like doing math. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!)

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