Galactose is also referred to as "brain sugar." This substance is not as sweet as glucose and it gives food energy to the body. This is a naturally made substance in the body, and vital for proper functioning.
Overview of Galactose
One of the properties of galactose is that it produces a lot of energy with a smaller amount of product. As a supplement or manufactured substance, it has a long shelf life and tastes similar to sugar. One drawback to using this substance is that it doesn't dissolve in liquids as easily as sugar does. For this reason, it is not usually used for home baking. Galactose is used by commercial bakeries as a sweetener. It is also used to tone down overly acidic or tart flavors in foods.
History of Galactose
Galactose is found in several types of food, including sugar beets and dairy products. It is also produced naturally in the human body. In fact, galactose plays an important part in breast feeding. During lactation, one of the processes that take place is for the mother's body to convert glucose to galactose. This conversion is responsible for lactose being created and it also helps the breast milk to let down or release so the baby can feed.
When we consume dairy products, our bodies break down the lactose into galactose. From that point, the galactose is broken down even further by the body's enzymes into other types of sugars which it needs. The problem with consuming a lot of dairy products is that the excess amount of Galactose will remain in the bloodstream. It can also be stored in the ovaries.
A study conducted in the late 1980s looked at thousands of women who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and a group of women without this disease. The difference between the women who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, as opposed to the cancer-free women was the amount of dairy products they had in their diet.
The study further concluded that milk fat was not responsible for the development of cancer. Rather, it was the sugar contained in the milk that was the culprit. Consuming yogurt and cheese may have put the woman at increased risk because the bacteria these products contain caused the conversion of lactose to galactose to speed up.
Prostate cancer has also been linked to consumption of dairy products, and by extension, galactose. Men who consumed a higher amount of dairy products were more likely to develop prostate cancer than those with a lower intake. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases by as much as 2.5 times when dairy products make up a sizable portion of a man's diet.
Healthy Claims of Galactose
Galactose makes up between 2-8% of milk solids. It is one of the saccharides that the body needs to form cells and organs. Galactose is an important component of the immune system and the way that the body's cells communicate with each other. This is a nutrient that is essential to obtain in your daily diet.
Scientists did not realize how important substances like galactose were to the body's chemistry until quite recently. Studies are still being conducted to learn more about this it and what it does. Research is ongoing into the effect that sugars have on immune systems in mammals, including humans. It will be some time before scientists have the answers they seek to this puzzle, but they have concluded that the body's immune system needs essential sugars, like galactose, in order to function properly.
Galactose is an important component of the messaging system that operates between cells. They need to have a way to send messages to each other about what kinds of cells they are. If this system didn't exist, then individual cells would not be able to tell whether other cells in the body are "friendly" or not. The antibodies the body produces would not be able to tell which cells it should be attacking and which ones should be left alone. Without sufficient galactose, the body's immune system would break down, putting the individual at increased risk for disease.
Recommended Daily Allowance of Galactose
The recommended daily allowance of galactose is 50 grams per day for adults who are healthy. Most of this will be eliminated within about eight hours after ingestion. If you are going to take galactose supplements, you should spread your consumption out through the day, as opposed to taking the full dosage at one time.
Summary of Galactose
Galactose, also known as "brain sugar" is similar to glucose, although it is not as sweet. It gives a greater amount of energy than granulated sugar with a smaller amount of product. Galactose is not generally available for home use, since it does not dissolve easily in liquids like sugar does. However, it is available in numerous supplements for health purposes. Commercial bakeries do use it when they prepare products for sale. Galactose is not used only in place of sugar; it can also be used to tone down a tart taste or cut out the acidity of certain foods.
Galactose is present in milk and other dairy products, along with sugar beets. When someone drinks milk or consumes dairy products, their body breaks the lactose down into galactose. Some kinds of cancer, namely ovarian and prostate, have been linked to consuming milk and research is on going to determine if the risk is from excessive amounts or a hereditary link.
On a more positive note, galactose is an important part of keeping the body's immune system healthy. It is an important part of the process needed to form cells. In addition, galactose is part of the body's system of communicating between cells.
If you didn't have sufficient galactose in your body, your immune system wouldn't be able to function. It wouldn't know which cells are "good" and should be left alone, and which ones should be attacked by the body's antibodies.
Research is continuing into the role that galactose and other polysaccharides play in keeping the immune system functioning properly. Consume 50 grams each day of galactose to keep your immune system healthy. If you are going to use a supplement, divide your intake up throughout the day, as opposed to taking a single dose.