The main sugar in milk, about 5% of cow’s milk is lactose. In human milk, it’s over 7%. Lactose provides great nutritional value from an early age. It is an integral part of baby milk formulas for infant nutrition. It is also used for many other applications.
The role of lactose in fooD
Lactose is part of the carbohydrate family. This disaccharide, empirical formula C₁₂H₂₂O₁₁, is broken down in the gut by an enzyme, lactase, which provides two simple sugars: one molecule of D-glucose and one molecule of D-galactose.
The effects of galactose on our bodies
Although glucose is present in many foods, lactose is the sole source of galactose in our diet. And yet this is a molecule known for its biological benefits and its role in the construction of nerve tissues. Galactose is involved in the composition of nerve-tissue sphingoglycolipids (cerebrosides, gangliosides and mucoproteins) essential for the functioning of nerve cells.
For example, gangliosides present in the external plasma membrane act as membrane receptors and are highly concentrated in the ganglion cells of the central nervous system. They are thus involved in protecting membranes from the external environment.
The benefits of lactose
Recent studies highlight the role of lactose in the bodily absorption of minerals such as calcium, copper or zinc in infants.
Lactose is also believed to promote the growth of intestinal bifidobacteria, which fight the decline of certain immune functions associated with aging.
In what areas is lactose used?
In infant nutrition
Breast milk contains 50% more lactose than cow's milk. It is therefore an essential ingredient in infant nutrition. When a baby is unable to be breastfed, it is fed with infant milk formulated to meet its needs as closely as possible, taking breast milk as a model. Formulators use refined lactose crystals to make infant milk.
This “refined lactose” has a higher degree of purity (99.4%) than “edible lactose” (99.0%). This difference in purity is observed in a more pronounced whiteness.
In the food industry
In the food industry, lactose is used for many reasons; for example, to improve the taste and texture of food. Because this sugar crystallizes better than dextrose and sucrose, it is used in the manufacture of confectionery and chocolate bars.
Food lactose is also widely used in bakeries, since its low sweetness and low solubility promote caramelization. This feature is also used to standardize the color of chips and fries.
But lactose has many other properties of interest to the food industry:
In the pharmaceutical industry
Lactose is one of the main pharmaceutical excipients. Due to its properties, it is used in the manufacture of tablets or capsules:
In the cosmetics industry
Finally, in the cosmetics industry, lactose can also:
- Play the role of humectant to maintain moisture in the product
- Be used as a skin care product
For over 35 years, Armor Protéines has specialized in the production and marketing of dairy ingredients.
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