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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Goat's Milk for Lactose Intolerants? No.

Due to the pernicious influence of the Internet, which spreads misinformation worldwide in seconds, I've been getting a lot of people asking whether they can switch to goat's milk if they are lactose intolerant.

The simple, direct, and correct answer is no.

Almost all of the animal milks that humans have used over the centuries are very close to one another in lactose content. They tend to have 4% - 5% lactose, allowing for the inevitable variations due to breeds and feeds. (See my Lactose Zoo page for detailed percentages.)

Why the confusion, then? Goat's milk – along with all the other animal milks – has a markedly different set of proteins, especially casein proteins, than cow's milk does. Those with Cow's Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) may find that they can tolerate goat's milk without symptoms. Emphasis on the may. I would not suggest goat's milk to those severely anaphylactic to cow's milk. The rest of you with milk allergy, however, and that's the majority, may be in luck.

An article, "Cow or goat: which milk is better?", by Jane Clarke, in The Times of London adds some other advantages and warnings:

Some young children with eczema and other allergies may do better with goat’s milk formula than cow’s milk or soya milk products, as goat’s milk is much closer in molecular structure to mother’s milk. These formulas are also higher in essential fatty acids than cow’s milk formulas.

The mineral content of both milks is generally similar, although goat’s contains slightly less calcium and slightly more vitamin A, potassium and selenium, which is an antioxidant.

Finally, a warning to pregnant women. Listeria is found in unpasteurised goat’s milk, yoghurt and cheese, so you need to avoid all of these and drink only pasteurised goat’s milk. The FSA advises avoiding soft goat’s cheeses such as chèvre.

Lactose intolerance remains a problem with the lactose, so if you do try goat's milk, remember to take your lactase pills, just as you would when having cow's milk.

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1 comment:

AJ Ponder said...

Great point. But also worth noting many people think they are lactose intolerant because 1) they have coeliac (look it up) or 2) they have a casein intolerance specifically the alpha casein in cows milk, so for these people goats milk (beta casein) may be a godsend - certainly I'm going to check it out.