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Sucrose vs. Lactose: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 5, 2024
Sucrose is a disaccharide sugar composed of glucose and fructose, commonly known as table sugar, while lactose is a disaccharide found in milk, made of glucose and galactose.

Key Differences

Sucrose is a natural carbohydrate found in many plants, particularly in sugarcane and sugar beets, used extensively as a sweetener. Lactose is a carbohydrate found primarily in milk and dairy products, and is less sweet than sucrose.
Sucrose is digested by the enzyme sucrase, breaking down into glucose and fructose which are then absorbed by the body. Lactose requires the enzyme lactase for digestion, splitting into glucose and galactose.
Sucrose is used in cooking and baking due to its ability to caramelize and add texture to food. Lactose, while also used in food products, is known for causing lactose intolerance in some individuals.
Sucrose serves as a preservative and texture enhancer in various food products. Lactose is less commonly used as a sweetener but plays a vital role in dairy product processing and flavor.
Sucrose can contribute to dental cavities and is a high-calorie sweetener. Lactose, when not properly digested due to lactase deficiency, can cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

Comparison Chart


Glucose + Fructose
Glucose + Galactose


Sugarcane, Sugar Beets
Milk, Dairy Products


Lower than Sucrose

Digestive Enzyme


Common Use

Sweetener, Food Preservative
Dairy Product Processing

Sucrose and Lactose Definitions


Sucrose is used as a sweetening agent in food and beverages.
Sucrose is added to coffee to balance its bitterness.


Lactose is a disaccharide composed of glucose and galactose.
Lactose is broken down by lactase in the human digestive system.


Sucrose is a disaccharide sugar made of glucose and fructose.
Sucrose is often used in baking cakes for sweetness.


Lactose contributes to the nutritional value of dairy products.
Lactose in milk provides energy to young mammals.


Sucrose is a carbohydrate that provides energy upon digestion.
Sucrose in fruit juices contributes to their caloric content.


Lactose is a sugar found in milk and dairy products.
Lactose gives milk its slightly sweet taste.


Sucrose is a common table sugar extracted from sugarcane or sugar beets.
Sucrose is dissolved in tea to enhance its taste.


Lactose is used in the food industry, particularly in dairy.
Lactose is present in all dairy products like cheese and yogurt.


Sucrose is a natural sugar that can caramelize under heat.
Sucrose caramelizes to give a golden color to desserts.


Lactose can cause intolerance in individuals lacking lactase.
People with lactose intolerance often avoid milk.


A crystalline disaccharide of fructose and glucose, C12H22O11, extracted chiefly from sugarcane and sugar beets and commonly known as table sugar. Also called saccharose.


A white crystalline disaccharide, C12H22O11, found in milk, that may be hydrolyzed to yield glucose and galactose. Refined lactose obtained from whey is used in infant foods, bakery products, confections, and pharmaceuticals as a diluent and excipient. Also called milk sugar.


(carbohydrate) A disaccharide with formula C12H22O11, consisting of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose; normal culinary sugar.


(carbohydrate) The disaccharide sugar of milk and dairy products, C12H22O11, a product of glucose and galactose used as a food and in medicinal compounds.


A common variety of sugar found in the juices of many plants, as the sugar cane, sorghum, sugar maple, beet root, etc. It is extracted as a sweet, white crystalline substance which is valuable as a food product, and, being antiputrescent, is largely used in the preservation of fruit. Called also saccharose, cane sugar, etc. At one time the term was used by extension, for any one of the class of isomeric substances (as lactose, maltose, etc.) of which sucrose proper is the type; however this usage is now archaic.


The main sugar present in milk, called also sugar of milk or milk sugar. When isolated pure it is obtained crystalline; it is separable from the whey by evaporation and crystallization. It is a disaccharide with the formula C12H22O11, being chemically 4-(


A complex carbohydrate found in many plants and used as a sweetening agent


See Galactose.


A sugar comprising one glucose molecule linked to a galactose molecule; occurs only in milk;
Cow's milk contains about 4.7% lactose


What is sucrose?

Sucrose is a disaccharide sugar composed of glucose and fructose.

What is lactose?

Lactose is a disaccharide sugar found in milk, composed of glucose and galactose.

Where is sucrose commonly found?

Sucrose is found in sugarcane, sugar beets, and as a sweetener in many foods.

What are common sources of lactose?

Lactose is commonly found in milk and dairy products.

How is sucrose digested?

Sucrose is digested by the enzyme sucrase into glucose and fructose.

How is lactose digested?

Lactose is digested by the enzyme lactase into glucose and galactose.

Can sucrose cause health issues?

Excessive sucrose intake can lead to dental cavities, weight gain, and other health issues.

What role does sucrose play in baking?

Sucrose adds sweetness and affects the texture and color of baked goods.

Is sucrose sweeter than lactose?

Yes, sucrose is generally sweeter than lactose.

Do all plants contain sucrose?

Not all plants contain sucrose; it's mainly in sugarcane and sugar beets.

Can infants digest lactose?

Most infants can digest lactose as they naturally produce lactase.

How does lactose affect people with lactose intolerance?

It can cause digestive discomfort like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

Is sucrose a natural sugar?

Yes, sucrose is a natural sugar found in plants.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose due to a deficiency of lactase.

Is lactose used as a sweetener?

Lactose is less commonly used as a sweetener compared to sucrose.

Can lactose be found in non-dairy products?

Lactose is primarily in dairy products, though some processed foods may contain it.

What are alternative sweeteners to sucrose?

Alternatives include stevia, honey, agave nectar, and artificial sweeteners.

How is sucrose refined?

Sucrose is refined through a process of extraction and purification from sugarcane or sugar beets.

Is lactose important for bone health?

The calcium in lactose-containing dairy products is important for bone health.

Are there lactose-free alternatives for dairy products?

Yes, there are lactose-free milk and dairy alternatives available.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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