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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 mankind.

I'm a vegan primarily for ethical reasons. I want to minimize the amount of suffering and death I cause other sentient beings.

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?

  • 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 machines
  • 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
    [verbatim excerpts from PETA]

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 life cycle.

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 after infancy.

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" gene mutation.

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 was initially.

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.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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