Does Nonfat Milk Have Lactose
In this brief article, we will answer the question, “does nonfat milk have lactose?” and discuss the amount of lactose in each type of milk, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of drinking non-fat and lactose-free milk.
Does nonfat milk have lactose?
Nonfat milk can have lactose or not. Being nonfat and having lactose are two distinct characteristics of the milk that are independent. There are both nonfat milk with and without lactose (1,2).
While nonfat milk refers to the milk that does not contain fat (or contains a very low amount of fats) in its composition, lactose free milk refers to the milk that does not contain lactose in its composition.
Lactose is a carbohydrate, more precisely, a disaccharide formed by the monosaccharides (sugars) glucose and galactose (1).
Lactose can be removed from the milk (or significantly reduced) by enzymatic treatments, where the lactose molecule is broken down, generating the readily available sugars glucose and galactose, which can be then consumed by lactose intolerant individuals.
Milk fat can be removed from the milk through centrifugation processes, due to the difference of density of the milk fat (3).
How much lactose is in milk?
The amount of lactose in each type of milk depends on factors such as the type of enzyme used in the process and hydrolysis conditions (4). As a result, different brands in the market may offer products with a variation on the amount of lactose in the milk.
The amount of lactose in each type of milk are shown in the table below (2):
|Milk type||lactose (g in 100 mL)|
|whole milk||3.7 – 5.1|
|low-fat milk (2% fat)||3.7 – 5.7|
|nonfat milk||4.3 – 5.7|
|nonfat lactose-free milk||0.43 – 0.6|
|lactose-free milk||0.43 – 0.6|
What are the benefits and drawbacks of drinking nonfat milk?
The benefit of drinking nonfat milk is the lower ingestion of fats and calories for individuals who need to reduce the amounts of fats in their diet. Milk is an important source of proteins and other nutrients, however, some individuals may avoid the consumption of milk due to the presence of saturated fats in its composition (5).
By the partial or total elimination of the fat from the milk, people following a low fat / cholesterol free diet are encouraged to drink milk with no restriction. For instance, 100 g of whole milk contains 13 mg of cholesterol, while the same amount of nonfat milk contains only 1 g of cholesterol.
In addition, because the fat is removed, there is a concentration of the proteins and some other nutrients, such as lactose and calcium.
The drawback of drinking nonfat milk is it contains less vitamin A and less vitamin B2 than whole milk. Milk is considered an important source of vitamin A for the population and is related to preventing diseases, including many types of cancer, due to its antioxidant property.
When opting for nonfat milk, it is recommended to improve the intake of vitamin A from other sources.
In addition, milk fat contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a lipid resulting from the ruminant activity of the cow. It has been reported to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and to improve the immune system (6).
What are the benefits and drawbacks of drinking lactose-free milk?
The benefit of drinking lactose-free milk is the possibility of drinking milk by the individuals who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is characterized by the inability of some individuals to synthesize e B-galactosidase, which is the enzyme that breaks down lactose and enables it to be absorbed by the organism (1,2,5).
As a consequence, lactose is not digested by the body, it passes as a whole into the lower gut, where it is fermented by bacteria. This results in uncomfortable gastric symptoms, such as cramping, flatulence, and diarrhea (5).
On the other hand, lactose intolerant individuals can drink lactose-free milk without experiencing these negative symptoms.
The drawback of drinking lactose-free milk is related to the sensory properties of the milk, which are poor in comparison to whole milk (1,2). Lactose-free milk generally has a flavor resembling cooked and sweet.
Should you drink nonfat lactose-free milk?
You should drink nonfat lactose-free milk when recommended by your healthcare provider. In general, both health conditions that would require the consumption of nonfat lactose-free milk, that is, lactose intolerance and high cholesterol levels in the blood, are identified by laboratory tests.
Milk fat is an important source of bioactive compounds and fatty acids which favors health in many aspects and should not be avoided unnecessarily (5,6).
In this brief article, we answered the question, “does nonfat milk have lactose?”, and discussed the amount of lactose in each type of milk, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of drinking non-fat and lactose-free milk.
- Adhikari, Koushik, et al. Sensory characteristics of commercial lactose-free milks manufactured in the United States. LWT-Food Sci Technol, 2010, 43, 113-118.
- Suri, Sheenam, et al. Considerations for development of lactose-free food. J Nutr Inter Metab, 2019, 15, 27-34.
- Ma, Y., and D. M. Barbano. Gravity separation of raw bovine milk: fat globule size distribution and fat content of milk fractions. J Dairy Sci, 2000, 83, 1719-1727.
- Dekker, Peter JT, Damiet Koenders, and Maaike J. Bruins. Lactose-free dairy products: Market developments, production, nutrition and health benefits. Nutrients, 2019, 11, 551.
- Pereira, Paula C. Milk nutritional composition and its role in human health. Nutrition, 2014, 30, 619-627.
- Cichosz, Grażyna, Hanna Czeczot, and Marika Bielecka. The anticarcinogenic potential of milk fat. Ann Agr Environ Med, 2020, 27, 512-518.