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Friday, May 14, 2010

Lactase Drops vs. Lactase Pills

Buying a lactase pill is easy. Go into any supermarket, or pharmacy, or discount store, or even most convenience stores and you'll find them in all sizes, shapes, spending ranges, and states of chewability. You can slip them into your pocket and have them available at any moment to pop into your mouth with food.

So wouldn't it be great if you could just crumble them up and put them in your milk for later use?

But you can't.

The reason is that lactase is not as simple as lactose. All lactose is exactly the same. It's a disaccharide, a combination of two simple sugars, with only a couple of dozen atoms and a single arrangement.

Lactase is an enzyme, which means it's a protein. Proteins are huge and complex. The lactase protein can be found in nature in hundreds of forms and hundreds more can be made in a lab or can be created by using yeasts to form them in cultures. Each individual form of lactase will work to split - or digest - the lactose disaccharide into its simpler component parts. But each works best at a different temperature and different acidity and other variables.

Food scientists use these variables to make lactase for commercial use. Specifically, the lactase that is used in lactase pills is designed to stay stable in the heat and high acidity of a human stomach, where the pH is around 2 (range: 1 to 3.5).

The lactase that is used in lactase drops, on the other hand, is designed to be used when added to refrigerated milk and in almost neutral acidity. The acidity of milk is around 6.7. That's a bigger difference than it might seem at first. Each point on the pH scale is ten times more acid than the next. That means that the stomach is around 100,000 times as acid as milk.

One type of lactase just can't be substituted for the other. They will work poorly if at all.

At least we have both.

Or do we? That's tomorrow's topic.

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LI-Dude said...

Hi Steve,
Thanks for all the info you have posted, you are indeed the expert on this matter. I recently discovered my LI and your site has been a savior.

However on this matter, despite your advice I went ahead and tried out an experiment. Purchased the fast acting caplets from Walmart with 9000 Lactase units, and put two into the full fat milk. Let it stand overnight and drank a whole glass in the morning.

Viola, there were no symptoms. Perhaps the pill did not hydrolyze the lactose as you said, but dissolving in the milk made sure it had the desired effect when it reached the small intestine, or probably it did hydrolyze the lactose: I am not sure :-). Just adding my own experience, for the record. Would be nice to hear your views.

Anonymous said...

Yes it did hydrolyze lactose. it doesn´t matter if u "challenge" your enzyme under mild conditions, but it does if u put it under acidic environments like stomach. Only those enzymes designed and tested for that conditions will work both, in your breakfast milk as well as in your stomach.