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Year 12 Diploma Biology

LACTOSE DIGESTION IN DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS


Study the graph below, which shows some of the results of an experimental investigation, and read the text
carefully, and answer the questions on the following page.

Experiments have
shown a wide
variation in the degree of lactose digestion (tolerance) in different populations of the world. Lactose is a
disaccharide and is found exclusively in milk and in some milk products. As they pass through the digestive
system, disaccharides are digested by enzymes into their component monosaccharides, which are then absorbed
into the blood.
In order to investigate possible reasons for the differences in lactose tolerance, tests were carried out on a number
of ethnic groups in Nigeria. The Yoruba are agricultural people who live in towns and villages, who mostly
cultivate and eat vegetables such as yams, cassava, maize and some leaf crops. They do not farm animals and do
not eat much meat or animal products. The Fulani are pastoralists (nomadic) from the arid north of Nigeria, who
survive almost entirely from the meat of their cattle and food products like butter and milk which are derived from
the cattle. The Hausa also live in the north of Nigeria, but inhabit the towns and cities.
The degree of digestion of lactose was detected by measuring the level of blood glucose 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes
after the ingestion of lactose. A similar experiment was later carried out using sucrose as the disaccharide.

Year 12 Diploma Biology 2014-2015

QUESTIONS
1

Both lactose and sucrose are disaccharides, made from monosaccharide monomers.
a)
Lactose is a disaccharide made from the monosaccharide galactose and one other
monosaccharide. Name this other monosaccharide.
Glucose
b)
Sucrose is a disaccharide made from fructose and one other monosaccharide. Name this other
monosaccharide.
Glucose
[2]

2
What was the purpose of the experiment involving sucrose?
To compare the difference between ingesting lactose and sucrose, as both have glucose.
[2]
3

What is the increase in blood glucose level after 30 minutes after ingestion of sucrose in both the Yoruba
and Fulani?
From 75 to 125, thats an increase of 50mg glucose in blood following ingestion of sucrose.
[1]
4

What is the increase in blood glucose level after the same period of time following ingestion of lactose in:
a)
Fulani?
From 75 to 77.5, so that an increase of 2.5 mg glucose in blood following ingestion of lactose.
b)
Yoruba?
From 75 to 100, thats an increase of 25mg glucose in the blood following ingestion of lactose.
[2]

What do these observations suggest about lactose tolerance in Fulani and Yoruba?
He observations suggest that Fulani are lactose tolerant as their glucose level raises pretty fast and at
a high rate, this means they are lactose tolerant. On the other hand Yoruba observation suggest that they are
lactose intolerant as their glucose level raises very slowly and at a minimum rate.
[2]
6

At what time is the maximum level of blood glucose in the blood following lactose ingestion in:
a)
Yoruba?
90 minutes
b)
Fulani?
About 60 minutes
[2]

How does this compare with the time taken for glucose to reach maximum level following the ingestion of
sucrose?
The maximum level reach in the ingestion of sucrose was 30 minutes, so for Fulani was 30 minutes faster,
and for Yoruba was 60 minutes faster. This means that sucrose is digested and transferred into you blood
system very quickly.
[1]
8
Suggest a reason for the longer times taken for glucose elevation following the ingestion of lactose.
Milk is a very fatty substance which will take longer for our body to totally digest it. As it has longer chains
of fat, the intestine and stomach take longer to break the chains an absorb the glucose.
[2]
9

From what you now know about the diets of the Fulani and the Yoruba, suggest a hypothesis to account for
the difference in lactose tolerance of the two.

Year 12 Diploma Biology 2014-2015

Yoruba people are agricultural; this means they do not have a diet involving meat or any food from animal
sources. This means they are not accustomed to ingesting milk or any animal food. On the other hand Fulani
has a very animal base diet, this means they do ingest milk as they farm animals. Fulani are very dependent
on milk; Yoruba eat more vegetables and have no milk.
[2]
10

The Hausa, who live in towns, show greater lactose intolerance than do the pastoral Fulani. Suggest an
explanation for this fact.
Hausa live in towns; this might suggest they have a weightier range of options when it comes to eating.
Hausa might have soya milk, or other product which replace normal milk. In towns the milk option
might by weightier too, and might just ingest lactose free milk.
[2]

Year 12 Diploma Biology 2014-2015