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Are humans meant to digest dairy?

Yogurt, Cheese, Milk- are we supposed to be eating this? I have a crazy co-worker who is insisting that we lack the enzymes to break down dairy. I have heard of lactose intolerance, but is this applicable to the rest of us as well?

Tue. Aug 29, 3:11pm

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no no a million times no.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 3:12 PM

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i should clarify. yes drink milk if you want to and are able. no to your last question, it is not applicable to everyone.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 3:14 PM

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My anscestors likely would not have been able to survive in the areas they lived in if they had not been able to digest milk and dairy products in general. They lived in inhospital climates where farming was difficult, the growing season was short and uncertain and herd animals were their livlihood. However you can't raise enough animals in that climate to be able to butcher them often, so they depended on the milk of those animals for food. It was high in fat, protein and calcium and that's what was needed to make up for the deficiencies in their diet.

So I do not 'get' the whole "humans are not evolved to digest dairy" argument. It is poosible that SOME humans did not evovle that way because they lived in areas where dairy was not a regular component in their diet. It is equally possible that some did - humans have been raising herd animals since before recorded history after all. It is really irritating when one takes an argument like that and attempts to apply it generally over a huge and diverse popluation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 3:42 PM

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I've seen a published estimate that 75% of the world adult population is lactase enzyme deficient (thus, lactose intolerant). The frequency of the genetic variants differs enormously by ethnicity - lactose intolerance is pretty much universal among Native Americans but very uncommon in natives of Sweden, for example
Whether we are "meant" to have, be, or do anything is more of a religious question. Consensus is, shall we say, unlikely.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 3:43 PM

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Raw milk

Raw milk doesn't lack the enzymes. When it gets pasteurized is when many people often lose their ability to digest milk properly.

Find a reputable dairy farm that is certified and maybe enjoy raw milk/cheeses/yogurt. 'course it's high in fat, so best in moderation, but at least healthy for you.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 3:45 PM

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Not really a matter of evolution

Our bodies can digest a lot of things that we probably aren't "meant" to. Some people can digest dairy and others can't. It does also cause mucus build up in the system and other allergic reactions, like ear and sinus infections (allergy sufferers, take note).

Cow's milk certainly wasn't "designed" by nature for human consumption - it is designed for baby cows. Humans don't need it to live, any more than cows need human breast milk to live.

There are areas of the world where dairy products are an excellent dietary supplement in terms of protein, fat, calcium, etc. In the first world though, it is a matter of taste. Most people love ice cream, cheese, yogurt, etc. Then it becomes a matter of personal opinion whether you want to do dairy or not.

Also, the way many dairy cows are raised and treated, and the hormones and antibiotics in milk today are another issue.

Here is a link to


Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 3:53 PM

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90% of non-white adults are lactose intolerant. but as children they can still tolerate it, which is great because we need calcium for bone growth. and whites are more prone to osteoporosis. is this an evolutionary factor - that the people prone to osteoporosis are more tolerant of the foods that prevent it? who knows, but it makes sense.

i say if you can tolerate it and it is healthy, eat it. the calcium is good for you, as well as the other vitamins and minerals. avoid osteoporosis if at all possible! and i also do not support any diet which completely eliminates a food group, whether it is grains, proteins (note proteins do not equal meats necessarily), dairy, whatever. each food group has its own set of nutrients which should be digested with the food to be most effective. for example, iron supplements, although effective, do not work as well as foods which naturally contain iron. fiber supplements don't work as well as just eating veggies, etc.

sorry for my soapbox.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 4:05 PM

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These proteins are best digested by the animals that create them. Milk is produced by a cow for its calfs. The milk provides the essential nutrients for the calf to develop into a 2000 lb animal. So I guess ppl can eat them but they are hard for us to break down. And they are designed to nourish a very large animal. Baby calfs would only drink this for a few weeks. Humans have decided to drink it for life. Its profitable to sell...LOL

Why is this a crazy concept? Humans produce their own milk.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 4:05 PM

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why did no one ever market human breast milk?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 4:08 PM

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Probably because you can't find enough humans who are willing to be treated the way we treat dairy cows.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 4:17 PM

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right on.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 5:03 PM

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Hasn't anyone read the book by the son of the founder of baskin robbins? I'm reasonably sure that it comments about dairy products.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 5:09 PM

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(some) people are evolved to drink milk

This is a repost from a January thread on the same topic:

People have been dairying for thousands (probably tens of thousands) of years. Dairy products provided reliable (you don't have to hunt for it) sources of proteins and fats for African, Mediterranean, and European peoples when those nutrients were much harder to come by than they are now.

As a result, people have adapted to drink cow's milk. No kidding! In times and places of less plenty, there was a strong selective advantage to being able to digest lactose. Genes favoring lactose digestion are common among Mediterranean peoples, Scandinavians, and the Maasai, and they seem to have become fixed in these populations independently.

Holden, C. and Mace, R. 1997. Phylogenetic analysis of the evolution of lactose digestion in adults. Human Biology 69(5):605-628.

Link goes to PubMed abstract


Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 6:48 PM

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where do these numbers come from?
75% non white
90% world pop???
they seem mighty high to me

Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 7:54 PM

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I gave up dairy years ago, and felt worlds better (less gas, diarrhea, bloating, etc.) Just today I ate a silly "blueberry bar" that I'd bought on a whim (looks like a long fig newton) and felt extremely ill -- sure enough, the first four inrgedients are all sweeteners, and the very first one is high-fructose corn syrup. You can be intolerant of fructose and sorbitol, and on an empty stomach they totally do me in (they're sweeteners in lots of stuff, including candies and mints and gum).
Simple strategy -- if you have symptoms, try cutting out dairy or fructose or whatever altogether for a few days (at least a few days to really tell) and see if you feel better. If you don't have symptoms, then don't worry about it!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006, 1:12 AM

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and BTW, the whole lactose intolerance thing may sound silly if you don't have it, but trust me-- there are millions of people out there suffering in silence, just like I was for so long. The symptoms are too embarrassing to talk about, and if you have it your whole life, you just think it's normal... Sad but true.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006, 1:14 AM

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7:54 - you got those two percentages mixed-up (read above). it's 90% of non-whites, which is about 75% of the world's population. Those numbers come from medical textbooks. I don't know where the textbooks got them, but probably from some poor graduate student who got stuck with the research. white people can be lactose intolerant too, it's just not as common.

and 1:12 - correct me if i'm wrong, but fructose is a fruit sugar (not processed fruit, but all fruit), just like lactose is a milk sugar. people can also be fructose intolerant, but it's much more rare and starts during childhood.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006, 6:44 AM

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6:44 - are you mad that whites are evolved to digest milk? That's what you sound like. The reason why some white people can't tolerate milk is because they've been mixed with native americans but they consider themselves as white, therefore they might lack of the gene to digest milk.

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