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Parmigiano Reggiano and Lactose Intolerance

Can Those Who Are Lactose Intolerant Eat Parmigiano Reggiano?

Parmigiano Reggiano is a unique cheese in terms of taste, characteristics, and tradition, but also for its suitability for those with lactose intolerance. It is naturally free of both lactose and galactose (amounts less than 0.01g/100g), making it perfectly digestible even for those sensitive to these sugars. During the production process of Parmigiano Reggiano, lactose is fermented by lactic acid bacteria within the first 48 hours after processing. During this time, known as lactic fermentation, the lactic acid bacteria naturally present in the milk convert lactose into lactic acid.


What is Lactose?

Lactose is a sugar normally found in milk. It is composed of two simpler sugars: glucose and galactose. For lactose to be absorbed and used by the human body, it must be broken down into these two components by an enzyme called lactase, which is produced in the small intestine.


When the body does not produce enough lactase, lactose is not properly digested and absorbed, leading to a condition known as lactose intolerance, which can cause various gastrointestinal symptoms that can vary from person to person. People with lactose intolerance often report symptoms such as abdominal bloating, pain or cramps, diarrhea, gas and flatulence, and nausea.


Parmigiano Reggiano and the Absence of Lactose

One of the defining features of Parmigiano Reggiano is its absence of lactose, across all stages of aging. This is achieved through the fermentation process that follows cheesemaking: specific lactobacilli transform lactose into lactate within 6 to 8 hours. Additionally, galactose, a byproduct of lactose, is also rapidly metabolized, disappearing entirely within 24-48 hours after production. This process makes Parmigiano Reggiano perfectly suitable for those with lactose intolerance, allowing them to enjoy its rich flavors without health risks.


Difference Between Lactose Intolerance and Milk Allergy

It's important to distinguish between lactose intolerance and milk allergy. Lactose intolerance is related to the inability to digest lactose due to the absence of the enzyme lactase. Milk allergy, on the other hand, is an immune system reaction to milk proteins, such as caseins and whey proteins. This distinction is crucial to understand why Parmigiano Reggiano can be tolerated by those with lactose intolerance but not by those with milk allergies.


Conclusion

Parmigiano Reggiano is not only an Italian gastronomic excellence but also a safe and enjoyable option for those managing lactose intolerance, offering a tasty solution without compromising health or well-being.


So, to answer the initial question:

Can those who are lactose intolerant eat Parmigiano Reggiano? The answer is unequivocally YES.

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