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Got milk? What about lactase?

According to Dr. William Ranahan, breast cancer researcher and professor at ORU, 70 percent of adults deal with adverse effects from consuming dairy.

Lactose intolerance means your body no longer produces lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. Lactose is found in any dairy product including cheese, milk, cream, ice cream and milk-based beverages.

Ranahan says everyone is born with the gene that creates lactase. However, if lactase isn’t utilized in the body, it stops being produced. People often become lactose intolerant from halting the consumption of dairy.

“If you suddenly stop making lactase, you would experience immediate and extreme discomfort,” Ranahan said. The gene determines whether or not lactase gets produced to break down lactose.

Ranahan claims that if someone keeps dairy in his or her diet then lactase will continue producing. Yet, for some people, that’s not an option. “There are people who are genetically disposed to being lactose intolerant,” said Ranahan.

“We don’t have the scientific technology to turn genes off and on, although there are ways that we are becoming aware of changing gene expression, but they are very much in their experimental phase.”

One experimental technique is called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (or CRISPR). This method has given doctors and scientists the ability to change or modify specific codings in a DNA sequence.

“That will create the re-initiation process to make mRNA. We know that is the problem. If you were making mRNA, you would be making protein [lactase],” said Ranahan.

“This is totally possible. You just have to hit a bunch of cells with CRISPR.” Rachel Budavich, ORU biology instructor, clarified a common misconception.

“One needs to distinguish between lactose intolerance versus food allergies,” she said. “Food allergies are very difficult to figure out. It could be something inside the cereal, not necessarily the milk itself.”

Ranahan and Budavich encourage people with a reaction to monitor the symptoms, time and circumstances surrounding the event.

“If you’re lactose intolerant, my assumption is that you will cut out dairy,” said Ranahan. “If you don’t cut out dairy, you’re going to increase inflammation which is a direct correlation to cancer.”