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What Is Lactose Reduced Milk?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Lactose reduced milk is milk which has been specially treated to remove or greatly reduce naturally occurring lactose. Most people who have dairy intolerance are actually reacting to the lactose in milk, and some of these individuals can drink lactose reduced milk instead of regular milk. If you have been diagnosed with a dairy or lactose intolerance, you should ask your doctor about allowable ranges of lactose in your diet, as everyone has different levels of tolerance.

To produce this dairy product, milk is treated with lactase to break down lactose. Lactase is an enzyme which digests lactose, converting it into sugars. Most people already have lactase in their bodies; they use this enzyme to digest milk and other dairy products when they are consumed. By adding the lactase directly to the milk, the producer can cut down on the lactose that the body has to process. Some people with lactose intolerance also take lactase pills when they plan to consume dairy.

Just like regular milk, reduced lactose milk is available in a range of styles. Full-fat and non-fat versions can be found in some markets, for example, and some companies make lactose free milk in addition to milk with reduced lactose levels. These companies also produced condensed and powdered milk with reduced lactose, to make more options available for people with lactose intolerance.

Although lactose reduced milk can be consumed just like regular milk, it tends to be sweeter because of the conversion of lactose to sugars. This sweet taste can be a bit surprisingly for people who are not used to it, and it can also have an impact on baking. When baking with lactose reduced milk, you may want to reduce the sugar in the recipe, or make a small batch to see how the food turns out before committing to a large amount.

For people who cannot find reduced lactose milk in their markets, this product can be found by searching online retailers. Most retailers will ship powdered or condensed milk, which is highly shelf stable, and some may also offer next-day delivery of fresh milk to nearby regions. In terms of regular milk, higher fat milks tend to have less lactose, although the lactose content is still high enough to get someone with lactose intolerance sick unless he or she takes lactase pills. Some people also believe that raw milk is easier to digest since it often has a lower lactose level.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon137580 — On Dec 28, 2010

Once Lactose 2 percent is opened and refrigerated, how long can you keep it until it spoils. Nothing is mentioned about how long it lasts once it's opened?

By highlighter — On Nov 03, 2010

@ Glasshouse- Milk that does not need to be refrigerated undergoes a process called Ultra High Temperature UHT pasteurization. UHT pasteurization effectively heats the milk to almost 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about four seconds, allowing it to be shelf stable. If you go to Europe, this is how the milk is processed. Milk is usually only processed like this in the United States when it is sweetened, or when it is organic. Organic milk often has to travel farther than non-organic milk so it needs to be able to withstand long travel times and stay fresh.

Most other milk is not processed like this because it adds a slight sweetness to the milk as some of the sugars are caramelized, and for the fact that people are somewhat put off by milk that does not need refrigeration. People don't see UHT milk as farm fresh milk, which is the image that has been ingrained in Americans heads for a while. Honestly, if most people knew how their dairy products got from animal to table, they would probably want their milk to be UHT pasteurized.

By Glasshouse — On Nov 03, 2010

How is shelf stable milk made? I have seen cartons of milk, most notable nestle quick and Horizons organic that do not have to be refrigerated. The carton says as long as the milk is stored under 85 degrees it will not spoil. How does this work? Does it have something to do with the slight difference in taste of the milk? To me the milk tastes like it is thicker than regular milk.

By Fiorite — On Nov 03, 2010

@ Anon24815- I am pretty sure that lactose reduced milk is good just as long as regular milk. There is no difference in the milk besides the presence of the enzyme lactase. Most milk can remain edible under refrigeration for about three weeks, but as you reduce the fat content, the milk will last longer.

By anon24815 — On Jan 18, 2009

how long does it take for lactose reduced milk to spoil?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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