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Slightly sweet sugar (disaccharide) composed of two monosaccharides, glucose and galactose, linked together. Lactose-intolerant adults, and more rarely infants, cannot digest lactose because they lack the enzyme (lactase) that splits it into simpler sugars and suffer diarrhea and bloating when they eat foods containing it. Lactose, which makes up 2–8% of the milk of mammals, is the only common sugar of animal origin. Commercial lactose is obtained from whey, a liquid by-product of cheese. It is used in foods, in pharmaceuticals, and in nutrient broths used to produce penicillin, yeast, and riboflavin, and other products.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on lactose, visit Britannica.com.