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Lactose digestion in humans: intestinal lactase appears to be constitutive whereas the colonic microbiome is adaptable
Örebro University, School of Medical Sciences. Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. (Nutrition-Gut-Brain Interactions Research Centre)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1905-918X
2019 (English)In: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ISSN 0002-9165, E-ISSN 1938-3207, Vol. 110, no 2, p. 273-279Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Globally, ∼70% of adults are deficient in intestinal lactase, the enzyme required for the digestion of lactose. In these individuals, the consumption of lactose-containing milk and dairy products can lead to the development of various gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. The primary solution to lactose intolerance is withdrawing lactose from the diet either by eliminating dairy products altogether or substituting lactose-free alternatives. However, studies have shown that certain individuals erroneously attribute their GI symptoms to lactose and thus prefer to consume lactose-free products. This has raised the question whether consuming lactose-free products reduces an individual's ability to absorb dietary lactose and if lactose-absorbers should thus avoid these products. This review summarizes the current knowledge regarding the acclimatization of lactose processing in humans. Human studies that have attempted to induce intestinal lactase expression with different lactose feeding protocols have consistently shown lack of enzyme induction. Similarly, withdrawing lactose from the diet does not reduce intestinal lactase expression. Evidence from cross-sectional studies shows that milk or dairy consumption is a poor indicator of lactase status, corroborating the results of intervention studies. However, in lactase-deficient individuals, lactose feeding supports the growth of lactose-digesting bacteria in the colon, which enhances colonic lactose processing and possibly results in the reduction of intolerance symptoms. This process is referred to as colonic adaptation. In conclusion, endogenous lactase expression does not depend on the presence of dietary lactose, but in susceptible individuals, dietary lactose might improve intolerance symptoms via colonic adaptation. For these individuals, lactose withdrawal results in the loss of colonic adaptation, which might lower the threshold for intolerance symptoms if lactose is reintroduced into the diet.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Highwire Press , 2019. Vol. 110, no 2, p. 273-279
Keywords [en]
Colonic adaptation, dietitians, lactase, lactase-phlorizin hydrolase, lactose, lactose intolerance, nutritionists
National Category
Food Science Nutrition and Dietetics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-74651DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz104ISI: 000478072300006PubMedID: 31175813OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-74651DiVA, id: diva2:1321974
Note

Funding Agency:

Foundation for Nutrition Research (Ravitsemuksen Tutkimussaatio) 

Available from: 2019-06-10 Created: 2019-06-10 Last updated: 2019-08-16Bibliographically approved

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Forsgård, Richard A.

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