Also indexed as: Milk Sugar Enzyme
Lactase is the enzyme in the small intestine that digests lactose (the naturally occurring
sugar in milk).
Where is it found?
Lactase is produced by the body. Dairy
products have varying levels of lactose, which affects how much lactase is required for
proper digestion. Milk, ice cream, and yogurt contain significant amounts of
lactose—although for complex reasons yogurt often doesn’t trigger symptoms in
Lactase has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Who is likely to be deficient?
Only one-third of all people retain the ability to digest lactose into adulthood. Most
individuals of Asian, African, and Native American descent are lactose intolerant. In addition, half of Hispanics and
about 20 percent of Caucasians do not produce lactase as adults.1
How much is usually taken?
Lactose-reduced milk is available and can
be used in the same quantities as regular milk. Lactase drops can be added to regular milk 24
hours before drinking to reduce lactose levels. Lactase drops, capsules, and tablets can also
be taken directly, as needed, immediately before a meal that includes lactose-containing dairy products. The degree of lactose intolerance
varies by individual, so a greater or lesser amount of lactase may be needed to eliminate
symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Lactase is safe and does not produce side effects.
Some, but not all, studies suggest that lactose-intolerant individuals absorb less calcium.2
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Gudmand-Hoyer E. The clinical significance of disaccharide
maldigestion. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59(3):735S–41S.
2. Wheadon M, Goulding A, Barbezat GO, et al. Lactose malabsorption and
calcium intake as risk factors for osteoporosis in elderly New Zealand women. NZ Med