Lactose Intolerance Is Not a Disease,
But Merely Normal Lactase Gene At Work in Adults
January 18, 2002
I'm a vegan, but I haven't paid that
much attention to the debate over what the originally intended diet was for
I'm a vegan primarily for ethical
reasons. I want to minimize the amount of suffering and death I cause other
So when I was a vegetarian, and found
out about the horrific cruelty involved in dairy farming, I quit drinking
the cow-based white stuff. What did I find out?
excerpts from PETA]
- Farmers must keep cows pregnant and
delivering calves in order to get milk
- Calves are traumatically taken from
their mothers just days after birth
- Female calves are slaughtered or
raised to follow in their mothers’ hoof prints
- Male calves go to the veal industry
to spend 14 weeks chained in dark crates so tiny that they can’t turn
around in them
- On a typical dairy farm, cows stand
on concrete, chained by the neck, in huge sheds and are milked by
- To boost production, some farmers
inject cows with synthetic growth hormones, which increase the cows’
risk of developing mastitis, a painful condition that causes cows’
udders to become so heavy that they sometimes drag on the ground
And beyond the foregoing, a
cow would normally live 20-25
years. But once the milk production level of a dairy industry cow goes
down, the cow is sent to the slaughterhouse. Most dairy cows are
killed by their fifth birthday, thus allowing them only 1/4 of their normal
But even though I focus on
such ethical elements and not on human dietary history, the press recently
reported a fact relating to the "natural" human diet that did
catch my attention.
Americans and Europeans think
that lactose intolerance (the inability to digest milk products) is some
sort of disease. Quite the contrary.
All humans have a gene
designed to turn on lactase, the enzyme which allows milk to be digested, at
birth. Then after weaning, the gene is programmed to turn lactase
off. In other words, the human being was not designed to drink milk
Indeed, most of the people in
the world are lactose-intolerant as adults, just as nature intended.
However, about 10,000 years
ago, the gene mutated in some people, and allowed them to digest milk as
adults. Those of us who can drink milk without difficulty -- a small
minority of the world's population -- have the "lactose tolerant"
Dr. Leena Peltonen, a geneticist
at the University of California Los Angeles:
I think it’s fascinating.
People think lactose intolerance is a disease, but this is how everyone
I'll buy that. One more
reason to give the cows a break and let them use their cow nursing
secretions for cow babies, not post-weaned humans.