Saturday, September 19, 2009

Do I Hate Milk or Does Milk Hate Me?

I hate milk, I've hated it since I was a kid.  In fact I don't think I've voluntarily drank a glass of milk since I was taken off the bottle as a toddler.  I don't like the taste of it, the feel of it in my mouth or how it sits in my tummy.
A while back I began to wonder if perhaps it wasn't that I didn't like milk, but rather that it didn't like me.  Maybe I was lactose intolerant.  Maybe I couldn't digest lactose, the sugar in milk.  Then I saw an article about people who can digest milk as an adult.  It turns out that it's a gene mutation that allows some adults to be able to digest milk.  Nearly 75% of the world's population can't drink milk as an adult, they lack the gene that makes it possible.
This gene showed up about 7500 years ago in Eastern Europe and spread with the people across Northern Europe.  It has been suggested that it was an adaptation to the lack of sunshine in that part of the world (and having lived in Germany and traveling extensively in England I can attest to the lack of sunshine) and the need for the body to have Vitamin D which milk is rich in.  So about 90% of Northern Europeans adults are lactase persistent, they can digest milk, 50% of Mediterranean adults, 25% of African and Caribbean adults, 5% of Asians and 0% of Native Americans.  About 90% of Americans are lactase persistent too.  But the fact is being able to drink milk is not the normal condition, being unable to is.
So being of Irish, German and English ancestry you'd think I could drink milk, but you forget my Cherokee ancestry and who knows, maybe it trumped the others, maybe it really is the milk that doesn't like me.

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