Lactose intolerance or hypersensitivity to lactose (milk sugar) is caused by the relative shortage of the enzyme lactase and is a normal state for a majority of the world’s adult population. This enzyme breaks down the lactose into the simple sugars glucose and galactose. In the enzyme deficiency lactose is instead broken down by gut bacteria, leading to abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhea.
It happens to lactose intolerance to be confused with true milk allergy, which is incorrect. Hypersensitivity to lactose is no allergy, since there will be no antibodies in the blood to lactose. Unlike in gluten intolerance, in lactose intolerance the gut does not get hurt after receiving lactose.
College students writing their research paper on lactose intolerance should know that the majority of the world’s people are lactose intolerant (in many Asian countries close to 100%), while the indigenous population in the Nordic countries (Finns and Lapps excluded) produces an unusual amount of the enzyme lactase.
The proportion of lactose tolerance in a population appears to be proportional to the length of time that the breast feeding and milk drinking has taken. While many Swedes can however get a stomach ache if they consume large quantities of milk. The intake of lactose exceeds then the amount of lactase the digestive system can handle.
Primary lactose intolerant Europeans / North Europeans tolerate a few glasses of milk a day, especially if the milk was drunk during meals. Of the approximately 7% ethnic Swedes who carry the genotype for lactose intolerance, 76% consume milk anyway.
However, they consume only 33% of these large amounts of milk. It is estimated that one third of all who carry the genotype for lactose intolerance can still consume large amounts of milk without getting any symptoms at all.
Lactose intolerant Chinese and Japanese withstand usually only 200 ml of milk.
Healthy children worldwide have generally, from birth to ages of 4-5 years sufficiently high levels of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine to handle the lactose in milk and other dairy products without any allergic reactions. The cases of congenital lactose intolerance occur, but they are very rare. Congenital lactose intolerance is inherited and discovered when the baby is newborn. If the child has congenital intolerance, there is typically that the baby gets water liquid diarrhea in breastfed or receives regular infant formula.
In some individuals, there is a change in the gene’s regulatory part that makes the gene for lactase is not switched off in adulthood. The consequence of this is that these individuals can tolerate relatively high levels of lactose in the diet in adulthood. This may be the reason that some people can drink milk after the age of five. How common this genetic change is varies between different populations.
Free example research paper on lactose intolerance is an excellent source of relevant data.
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