Weight-Loss Drinks Increase
Gas in Milk-Intolerant
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
- As if losing weight wasn't difficult enough, researchers say
that people who have difficulty digesting milk products may experience
an increase in gas if they consume milk-based powder supplements
designed as a meal replacement.
``I won't say that their health has been tremendously affected,''
said study lead author Dr. Michael Levitt of the Veterans Affairs
Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ''They can just say
I'm going to have some gas and I don't care. But there's something
about taking milk at breakfast and lunch without any other food
that tends to make you very gassy.''
The study, which included 10 otherwise healthy women with lactose
intolerance, was funded in part by Slim Fast Foods Company. About
25% of American adults have lactose intolerance, a condition in
which an individual lacks a sufficient supply of an intestinal
enzyme critical for the digestion of milk-based foods. Consuming
large amounts of lactose--a sugar found in milk--can cause such
individuals to experience bloating, diarrhea and flatulence.
While eating solid foods with milk can reduce such reactions,
the researchers point out that between 11% and 21% of the 50 million
Americans who diet each year rely to some degree on low-fat meal
replacement supplements. Many such food substitutes contain milk-based
powders that users mix with fat-free milk, before drinking as
a replacement for a meal.
In the study, the women were randomly assigned to consume one
of two commercially available, vanilla-flavored, milk-based nutritional
powders: one with a high level of lactose mixed with fat-free
milk; the other a soy powder mixed with lactose-free, low-fat
The researchers found that those who consumed the high-lactose
preparation experienced a large increase in intestinal gas. The
women passed gas three times as frequently--from about 10 times
a day to 30 times a day--compared with those who drank the low
The findings are published in the current issue of the Journal
of the American Dietetic Association. Levitt and his colleagues
note that none of the women experienced an increase in bloating,
abdominal pain or diarrhea.
In addition, the researchers said that some of the women were
asked to consume a third nutritional supplement mix, a ready-to-drink
form of the product containing about a third less lactose than
the high lactose preparation. These women did not experience a
similar increase in gas. A mild rise in the frequency of gassiness
was observed, although the subjects seemed unaware of the increase.
``I was a little surprised by this finding,'' Levitt told Reuters
Health. ``I spent a lot of time knocking lactose intolerance as
a problem, because for those who drank milk with their meals the
message has always been that it is not much of a problem. But
in this case there seems to be a threshold, when taking in lactose
without additional food.''
Levitt explained that bacteria in the large intestine that typically
break down lactose and the gas it produces appear to be overwhelmed
when it is ingested too quickly in the absence of food. ``It turns
into gas faster than you can consume the gas, and then it becomes
a problem,'' he said.
But he added that those with lactose intolerance who wish to
continue drinking such supplements can prevent the associated
gas problems simply and quickly. ``They can buy the enzyme they're
missing--called lactase--and add it directly into the supplement.
We showed that that would solve the problem.''
Dr. Hank Frier, senior director of research for Slim Fast in
New York, said there are several ways those with lactose intolerance
can continue to use such products.
``We try and provide alternatives to individuals who might be
lactose-intolerant,'' Frier told Reuters Health. ``They can either
use lactase drops or they can use the fruit-based products as
is, right off the shelf--and you can see they have almost no gas
affect or symptomology.''
``So, yes, indeed lactose-intolerant individuals have to be concerned
about using dairy products ...but there are ways they can use
weight products like Slim Fast and not have the symptomology,''
SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2001;101:1447-1452.
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