The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA

Dairy Sugars: Lactose and Galactose

Dairy sugars: Lactose and galactose

Scientific evidence supports the essential role of milk and dairy as part of a healthy eating plan. However, a controversial Swedish study a few years ago cast doubt on the health benefits of milk when it was hypothesised that lactose and its metabolite galactose may be implicated in an increased mortality and fracture risk associated with a high intake of milk. This review evaluates current evidence of the health effects of lactose and galactose as found in dairy and concludes that these dairy sugars are beneficial rather than detrimental to health, with specific implications for neurodevelopment, cell membrane integrity and maintenance of the cellular matrix. The prebiotic function of lactose and galactose is briefly described, with reference to their effect in promoting healthy gut microflora. The review also explains enzyme deficiencies that could affect normal metabolism of lactose and galactose, and the dietary implication with regard to dairy consumption.

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