Alternative sugars

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Much of the flavor in cheese comes from the aging process, in which cheese ripening Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) consume some of the lactose sugar and other compounds in raw cheese. We don't really want to add lactose because some people are lactose intolerant. What other sugars could we use that are plant based, and will result in the same flavor/aroma/texture profile after aging?

We know that most of the standard bacterial cultures used in cheese making can also grow on other types of sugar than lactose. Lactose is a disaccharide of galactose and glucose, so just replacing the lactose with its monosaccharides would be a good starting point. We could also replace the glucose with a glucose dimer such as maltose or even trehalose to slow down its bacterial utilization a bit.

Biolog makes 96-well plates with a different carbon source in each well - useful for checking which cheesemaking bacteria can survive on which alternative sugar sources.Can we find Biolog data on bacteria of interest?


Lactose is a disaccharide of galactose and glucose. We suspect that galactose is important for Streptococcus thermophilus at least (used in yogurt making, but also cheese - see review). We might be able to include just galactose and glucose as monomers? But most galactose on the market is made from lactose - from cows - and feeding cheese ripening bacteria glucose may make them grow too fast. Can we find an alternative di- or oligo-saccharide that includes galactose?


Sigma sells plant-based galactose, but it’s really expensive:

This company claims to make galactose for the baking industry - seems promising:

Other Disaccharides

The Wikipedia page on Disaccharides is a good starting point Criteria:

  • Contains galactose and glucose?
  • Doesn’t get digested *too* fast (e.g. pure glucose)
  • Can be broken down by cheese ripening bacteria of interest
  • Does not not cause any gastrointestinal distress in humans

What is the exact mechanism of gastrointestinal distress due to lactose intolerance?

  • Allolactose - β(1→6) Gal-Glu, but produced from lactose
  • Melibiose - α(1→6) Gal-Glu. Found in a variety of foods, some of which are coffee beans, apple, sesbania flower, mugwort, olive, and jerusalem artichoke - promising?
  • Melibiulose - α(1→6) Gal-Fru
  • Lactulose - β(1→4) Gal-Fru. Made from lactose, used as laxative