I enjoy milk and dairy products a lot. And I know very few people who don’t consume dairy on a daily basis. So naturally, I was skeptical when I was told that humans can’t properly digest milk. So I started looking into it, and here’s what I learned…
Fun fact: most adult mammals do not produce the enzyme lactase, which is necessary for the digestion of lactose in milk. This includes humans. It’s true; she was right; most humans cannot properly digest milk!
Basically, we’re only supposed to digest milk during infancy. After that period, for MOST humans, the body stops producing lactase.
However, some humans have evolved and continue producing lactase throughout their adulthood.
Yes, this is an example of modern human evolution.
Long story short: apply natural selection to a bunch of European dairy farmers around 5,000-10,000 years ago. Bam, lactase persistance. No, this isn’t the opposite of lactose intolerance – they are mutually exclusive. In other words, if you’re not lactose intolerant, then this whole thing probably won’t change your life.
Have a look at this distribution table. Only 10% of Asian Americans (like yours truly), have the genes which tell their bodies to continue producing lactase – which means 90% of us do not properly digest milk! Bad for you? Probably not. Kind of a waste? Yeah, I suppose so. Gonna stop me? No way, Jose. I’ve never experienced any issues after consuming dairy… no harm, no foul, right? Furthermore: ice cream.
If you’re Dutch, you’re in luck – 99% of you have lactase persistance. Lucky!