Lactose, the specific sugar of milk, is digested by the body thanks to the lactase enzyme, however in some people its activity might be impaired or remarkably reduced.
Lactose accounts for 5% of milk and plays a very important role both from a nutritional as well as technological viewpoint. It represents the substrate of fermentation of milk microflora that originates those products (lactic acid, vitamins, etc.) that give the specific aroma and taste to fermented milks and yogurts. Moreover, the presence of lactose improves the capability to absorb calcium and zinc, that are minerals contained in milk in a quantity that makes the intake of this food very important to fulfil the daily need of such elements.
Milk may be difficult to digest because of lactose, since it has to undergo the fission into the two sugars (glucose and galactose).
As said, lactose is digested by the body thanks to the lactase enzyme, however in some people its activity might be impaired or remarkably reduced.
When lactase is missing, lactose is fermented by the intestinal bacterial flora with the production of gases, abdominal pain and unpleasant rumbles. In addition to the genetic predisposition, such difficulty or incapability of digesting lactose also depends on age: in fact, the lactase activity progressively decreases as the years go by. The use of specific drugs, bacterial and viral infections, and some intestine inflammatory conditions may cause temporary lactose intolerance. Such situation may be avoided eating cheeses that “lose” the lactose during the curing process thanks to bacteria that also digest casein, making it easier for the proteases of our organism to attack it.
In the case of Gorgonzola DOP, lactic bacteria consume lactose during the fermentation that occurs along the cheese-making process.
A correctly cured Gorgonzola DOP only contains traces or extremely reduced quantities of lactose, hence the reason why it is a typically well tolerated cheese also by those who have difficulties in digesting this sugar.