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Lactose-free candy is any candy that is free of lactose, or milk sugar. This type of candy is especially good for people who cannot digest milk sugar well, but anyone can eat it. It often is still sweet despite having no lactose, as it usually contains other natural forms of sugar or sugar substitutes, but this varies with the recipe.
Some candies are naturally free of lactose. This means the original candy recipe normally does not call for milk. Two good examples are rock candy and jelly beans. These recipes often get their sweetness from other forms of sugar, such as fructose, the kind of sugar in fruits. They do not require any extra processing.
When a candy recipe calls for milk, manufacturers can make it lactose free with the use of enzymes which destroy the lactose in the milk. This requires an extra processing step, but it allows the manufacturer to leave the original recipe essentially unchanged. Staying as true to the recipe as possible often is important in preserving the texture and consistency of the candy, because milk has its own chemical formulation that includes useful dietary substances such as fats, protein and Vitamin C. The fact lactose is only a percentage of the entire liquid is why the manufacturer opts to use enzyme processing instead of a milk substitute.
The ability to use enzyme processing means that candy makers are virtually unlimited in the types of lactose-free candy they can create. Someone who wants lactose-free candy can find everything from taffy to chocolate bars and fudge. These candies are generally not any more expensive than their lactose-containing counterparts.
Lactose-free candy is of particular significance to those who suffer from lactose intolerance, which is a medical condition in which the body cannot absorb lactose properly. Normally, lactase, an enzyme made by the cells which line the small intestine, breaks down lactose into two simpler sugars, glucose and galactose. People who are lactose intolerant are deficient in lactase and therefore cannot convert lactose into glucose and galactose. The results are symptoms such as gas, nausea and abdominal bloating and pain.
The ability to eat lactose-free candy means that those with lactose intolerance can enjoy a sweet treat without suffering the symptoms of their enzyme deficiency. It also means they can eat candy without having to also eat a dietary aid containing the lactase they need to digest lactose. This creates a better overall experience with the candy. Candy makers understand this and create lactose-free versions of their products in order to widen their client base.