Dairy products are a tremendous source of nutrition

Milk is our first food. The human body is even designed to produce it for our new-born children as the perfect source of essential nutrients. Dairy products are an established, tasty and regular part of the human diet for many around the world, and we have been farming cattle for thousands of years. Milk and whey powders are big business in the food industry and dairy brands are often household names Most of this is common knowledge.

Lactose intolerance is a worldwide phenomenon

A less well-known fact is that despite our love affair with dairy, the majority of the world’s population loses the ability to digest lactose as we grow into adulthood. Lactose intolerant is the default mode and it’s only a genotype mutation that enables us to consume dairy in comfort.

Valio is the global pioneer and European market leader in lactose free products

So the chances are you know someone who’s lactose intolerant, and quite possibly someone who uses lactose free products. Valio made that possible by inventing the world’s first truly lactose free milk drink in 2001. Our ability to combine great taste with no lactose has enabled millions to enjoy dairy again and benefit from the essential minerals and vitamins on offer.

The vital nutrients contained in milk are described in the table below.

So what precisely is lactose intolerance and how can you deal with the problem?

Simply put it’s an inability to digest lactose comfortably. The lactase enzyme in our body breaks lactose in dairy down into galactose and glucose in the small intestine. People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough of the enzyme. As a result of impaired digestion and absorption of the milk sugar, lactose intolerants often suffer unpleasant stomach symptoms such as bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea.

The frequency of lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is an inherited condition suffered to one degree or another by an estimated 75% of adults worldwide. It’s not really an illness but can easily lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Neither is it the same as milk allergy, generally an infant ailment that disappears by the age of seven, where the body reacts to milk protein producing disagreeable reactions. Only 1–2% of adults suffer from milk allergy.

Experimenting with a low lactose diet

Some lactose intolerants can deal with small amounts of normal dairy products, in small portions to allow time for the lactose to be digested. Yoghurt, fermented and cultured milks contain less lactose, while matured cheeses such as Valio Edam, Valio Oltermanni® and Valio Polar® contain no lactose so can be included in meals every day.

Drinking milk with a meal improves tolerance because the other foods slow the flow of lactose in the digestive tract which leaves more time for the lactose to be digested successfully.

Low lactose products

Valio offers a wide range of low lactose HYLA® products which have a slightly sweet taste and contain a maximum of 1 g of lactose per 100 g of product. You can try replacing regular dairy products with low lactose HYLA®.

Valio Eila® = Expertise in Lactose Free Dairy

The most sensitive lactose intolerants may develop stomach symptoms from even the small amount of lactose found in HYLA® products.

Valio Eila® lactose free dairy means 0 g of lactose per 100 g of consumer product. The products taste just like ordinary fresh dairy and can be enjoyed by all. Valio’s unique patented technology first removes part of the lactose and then degrades the remainder using the lactase enzyme.

If just one family member or e.g. employee eating at a workplace canteen is lactose intolerant, there will always need to be a lactose free alternative available. Because the taste of Valio Eila® products is indistinguishable from regular dairy, the whole family or group will often choose to eat them, too. At home, that makes life easier and at work more effective which is why Food Service applications have become an important market for Valio lactose free.

"Lactose intolerance is not the same
as milk allergy."

Vitamin D and calcium grow and strengthen the bones and skeleton

The human body has 206 bones to help keep us upright and mobile. They provide a hard shell for the vital organs, such as the brain and lungs. Calcium is needed to generate bone tissue and for ongoing maintenance, so it’s important to secure calcium intake as well as the vitamin D which plays a vital role in the mineral’s absorption. They also strengthen the teeth, hair and nails.

From birth to childhood

For children especially, milk is one of the best sources of the calcium we need to grow healthy bones. It’s also rich in vitamin D which is crucial to the process. Infants under 6 months receive the necessary calcium from breast milk or infant formula, and for later Valio Onni™ baby foods contain added calcium and vitamin D.

For adults and into old age

Keeping the bones healthy is a lifelong project and although bone matter is hard, it is regenerated continuously which requires specific nutrition for adults, too. It has been observed that lactose intolerants receive less calcium from food than do other people, so new Valio Eila® lactose free milks contain even more added vitamin D at 2 μg per 100 g.

As in children and young people, the adult body also produces new bone tissue. But its regeneration slows and disintegration accelerates as the body ages. Healthy bones are more likely to remain strong in old age and that too can be promoted throughout life, with exercise as well as the right kind of diet. The exertion caused by walking, running and other exercise provides the bones with stimuli which activate the cells that contribute to building bones.

Other good sources of calcium include e.g. nuts, seeds and some fish. The calcium in dairy products is however absorbed better than from e.g. vegetables. Studies have shown that people who drink a lot of milk have higher bone density.

Lactose free dairy originated in Finland

Large quantities of dairy products have always been consumed in Finland, which may be one reason why an exceptional need to develop first low lactose and then lactose free products emerged in Valio’s domestic market.

Common misconceptions about lactose intolerance

A recent study commissioned by Valio and conducted in Finland by TNS Gallup in May 2012 nevertheless revealed some interesting beliefs in a nation of milk drinkers where one in five adults is lactose intolerant.

More than 80% of respondents thought lactose intolerance does not inhibit diversity in your diet, while more than half believed it’s a milk sugar allergy and half didn’t know it’s an inherited condition.

Nearly half persists in the belief that truly lactose free milk drink tastes much sweeter than regular milk and a quarter thinks that dairy processing causes lactose intolerance.

Debunking the myths

Dr Marika Laaksonen, a nutrition expert at Valio who holds a PhD in Food Sciences comments:

First, she points out, lactose intolerance comes from inheriting a gene mutation from both parents which results in the lactase enzyme that digests lactose not functioning as it should. So undigested and unabsorbed lactose draws water in the intestines and bacteria using lactose as nutrition produce gases and acidic compounds that result in the symptoms typical to lactose intolerance.

On the subject of dairy processing, studies have observed no difference in the tolerance of homogenized and unhomogenized milk. Homogenization degrades the biggest fat particles but does not change the structure or volume of lactose.

And as to taste, Valio’s lactose free dairy products have the same fresh taste as ordinary dairy products that contain lactose. It’s low lactose HYLA® products that have a slightly sweet taste that that doesn’t appeal to everyone and we eliminated in Valio Eila® products.

"Valio's lactose free dairy products have the
same fresh taste as ordinary dairy products
that contain lactose."

The development of a unique patented technology

Valio’s R&D team led by Dr Matti Harju, recently retired, invented and developed a patented method for the mechanical separation of lactose, enabling lactose free milk production without chemical processing, and end products that contain less than 0.01% lactose yet taste like normal dairy. Milk composition is unaltered so all the proteins, minerals and other nutrients are retained.

Work on lactose free technology is far from over at Valio as the manufacturing technique is subject to continuous development and we hold dozens of related patents.

Recognized for innovation

Lactose free low fat milk drink picked up the Finnish Food and Drinks Industries’ Federation Star Product of the Year award in 2002. In 2006, Valio’s lactose removal method received the gold European Food Tech award followed in 2008 by the Finnish Engineering Award, and the Edelcrantz award in 2010.

250 products for carefree consumption

Valio Eila® brand lactose free products and technology are sold globally, offering consumers taste and health and our licensees and food industry customers significant business opportunities. In some countries, such as Russia, the consumer items are viewed as premium products with a broader appeal than their lactose free characteristic.

Valio’s range of lactose free products has grown year on year to include milks, fermented milks, flavoured and unflavoured yoghurts, creams, cooking products and butter, as well as some that are lactose free by nature, such as matured cheeses in which lactose is degraded during maturation. We also sell a full spread of lactose free powders to the food industry.

Sales of lactose free products are expected to double in Europe by 2016*, and demand is also growing steadily in the US. Valio exports a selection of its lactose free products to Sweden, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, while our lactose free technology licensees are currently active in Switzerland, Spain, South Korea, the Netherlands and Norway. Lactose free products offer excellent export potential in the growing markets of Asia and South America.

*Source: Lactose-free dairy; New Nutrition Business 2012