Lactose Free Milk is NOT sugar free

Posted by Melissa Callaghan on

This is a very important topic and the message needs to be spread far and wide.  Please share this article.

As a Naturopath I see many many many patients with either diabetes or pre diabetes.  Most of my patients in this area have been to see other practitioners before seeking out a Naturopath and the topic of this article is one of the biggest areas of concern for me as I hear it all the time. "I was told by ______ to drink lactose free milk because I have diabetes" I then move on to explain that lactose free milk is NOT sugar free or fat free milk and that it still has just as much sugar as full cream and skim milk. 

I am always met with disbelief, so I go and pull out the milk containers from the fridge to show the nutrition panels. 

As I am an educator of low carbohydrate nutrition this is an area that I am well trained in and believe that it is important for people with diabetes and pre diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome to have a thorough understanding of. 

Let's start with some questions to cover the basics -

What is lactose?

It is a sugar that occurs naturally in cow's milk and cow's milk products. It consists of two sugar molecules joined together to form a disaccharide, a double sugar.

What is lactase?

It is a digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose.  It turns the disaccharide into a monosaccharide, a single sugar.

Where does lactase come from?

It is located in the brush border of the small intestine and is needed for the sugars to be absorbed. If lactose doesn't get broken down then it won't get absorbed. This is where lactose intolerance comes in.



Now that we understand a bit more about the process in the body we can talk about the process of lactose free milk.

As you can see from the above diagram with normal lactose digestion, lactose being a double sugar is broken down into two single sugars - glucose and galactose - which are both then absorbed. 

Here is the process undertaken in the manufacturing of lactose free milk as explained on the website of Liddells lactose free milk which is available in supermarkets.

The dairy milk manufacturers simply add lactase to their milk so that your body doesn't have to break it down into simple sugars, it is already done for you.

As you can see the sugar is still there in the form of glucose and galactose.

Here are some nutrition panels for you to see that per 100mls (most people drink around 250mls or a cup in a day)

Paul's Zymil full cream milk


Paul's Zymil low fat milk


Paul's Full cream milk


Liddells Lactose Free milk

Norco's Lactose free milk


As you can see all of them have between 11 and 12 grams of carbohydrates per 250mls.  This is not sugar free but yes it is lactose free.

If you are reacting to the milk and experiencing the signs and symptoms connected to it then there will be alot more going on than just a lactose intolerance as this mean the brush border of your small intestine is damaged.

This usually means leaky gut

Who am I?

I am a Bachelor qualified Naturopath who specialises in improving metabolic processes in the body and reducing metabolic inflammation. Major areas for improvement include gut health, thyroid, kidney, liver, weight loss and mental health. Conditions such as fatty liver, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, irritable bowel conditions, depression & anxiety. I help my patients by giving them symptomatic relief while working on repairing the underlying causes of metabolic stress and waste accumulation. 

What if the solution was as simple as changing your diet and your mindset. A growing number researchers believe that it is and that you can prevent or even reverse several of our worst diseases.
As a Naturopathic Doctor and Nutritionist I wholeheartedly believe this could also be possible and that the solution isn't just another pill.  I've spent many years developing my program where I have been able to successfully help my patients reduce and even eliminate their pharma meds, lose weight (most lose 6-8 kilos in 8 weeks) and feel full of energy again and I've helped them take back their health and improve their lives and habits. I can help you too.

Melissa Callaghan ND, BHSc, BTeach
Clinical Naturopath

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