Beta-galactosidase, Bêta-Galactosidase, Lactasa.
Lactase is an enzyme. Like other enzymes, it is needed for a specific biochemical reaction in the body. The biochemical reaction that involves lactase breaks down lactose, a sugar in milk and milk products. Some people's bodies do not make enough lactase, so they are not able to digest milk well. These people are said to have “lactase deficiency” and are called “lactose intolerant.” They can take supplemental lactase to help them break down lactose and tolerate milk. In these people lactase can prevent symptoms of lactose intolerance including cramps, diarrhea, and gas.
Many health experts think it's important to treat lactose intolerance so people can consume milk and milk products. Milk is a major source of calcium, which is needed for strong bones. People who do not get enough milk are more likely than other people to develop weak bones (osteoporosis).
How does it work?
People who are lactose intolerant have trouble digesting the milk sugar lactose. Lactase is an enzyme that splits the milk sugar lactose, to produce the sugars glucose and galactose.
Likely Effective for...
- Preventing symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as cramps, diarrhea and gas, when milk products or lactose are taken by people with lactose intolerance. Lactase can be taken before consuming lactose or it can be added to milk.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For lactose intolerance: the typical dose of lactase is 6000-9000 IU tablets chewed and swallowed at the start of a meal that contains lactose. 2000 IU of the solution added to 500 mL of milk immediately before drinking it has also been used.
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DairyEase product information. McNeil-PPC Inc. Fort Washington, PA 19034.
Horowitz M, Wishart J, Mundy L, Nordin BE. Lactose and calcium absorption in postmenopausal osteoporosis. Arch Intern Med 1987;147:534-6. View abstract.
Lami F, Callegari C, Tatali M, et al. Efficacy of addition of exogenous lactase to milk in adult lactase deficiency. Am J Gastroenterol 1988;83:1145-9.. View abstract.
Lin MY, Dipalma JA, Martini MC, et al. Comparative effects of exogenous lactase (beta-galactosidase) preparations on in vivo lactose digestion. Dig Dis Sci 1993;38:2022-7.. View abstract.
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Spraycar M, ed. Stedman's Medical Dictionary. 26th ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1995.