Our ancestors were also lactose intolerant, but they didn’t milk it, scientists say


A flat white with soy or oat milk has become a common coffee order among millennials, with many citing lactose intolerance as a reason for their avoidance of dairy.

But a study shows that people with lactose intolerance have been drinking milk for more than 9,000 years without any significant health problems.

Scientists say that the inability to digest lactose posed few problems for the elderly in good health, causing only minor discomfort.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and the University of Bristol propose that the ability to tolerate milk was developed by healthy people who have survived famine and disease.

“It is probably the most highly selected single gene trait to have evolved over the last 10,000 years in Europeans and also in many African, Middle Eastern and South Asian populations,” UCL professor Mark Thomas said in the journal Nature.

Scientists collected historical data on how much milk was drunk around the world at different times and compared this to when the lactase gene was prevalent.

They found that there was no link between the two, confirming that drinking milk and being able to digest lactose did not have an evolutionary advantage.

However, evidence showed that intolerance could prove deadly in times of famine and disease, as severe symptoms led to fatal dehydration and other problems.

During these times, the prevalence of the lactase gene skyrocketed.

The lactase gene was 689 times more likely to be found in a person during times of famine and 284 times more likely during times of illness.

“If you’re healthy and you don’t have lactase and you drink a lot of milk, you may experience some discomfort, but you’re not going to die from it,” said Bristol University’s Prof George Davey Smith. But “ If you are severely malnourished and have diarrhea, then you have life-threatening problems.”

(© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/our-ancestors-also-had-lactose-intolerance-but-they-didnt-milk-it-scientists-say-41872960.html Our ancestors were also lactose intolerant, but they didn’t milk it, scientists say

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