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  1. #1
    Advisor Angela's Avatar
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    Humans were drinking milk before they could digest it

    See:
    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021...ould-digest-it

    I'm not so sure. It seems a little too broad.

    My point is, who says they were drinking it, and not fermenting it or changing it into cheese at that point?

    Other than that, it's standard selection for a beneficial trait among herding people.

    "The scientists examined eight skeletons excavated in Sudan and Kenya, which were between 2000 and 6000 years old. They scraped hardened dental calculus from their teeth and looked for known milk-specific proteins trapped inside.The findings revealed these people were consuming some sort of dairy product at least 6000 years ago, the team reports today in Nature Communications. That makes this the earliest known direct evidence for dairy consumption in Africa, and perhaps the world.
    The research also shows dairying in Africa goes back just as far as it does in Europe—perhaps longer. That undercuts a myth, propagated by white supremacists, that lactase persistence and milk drinking are somehow associated with white Europeans.
    What’s more, ancient Africans don’t appear to have evolved any milk digesting genes, according to a study of some of their skeletal DNA published in 2020. “It looks like the community was drinking milk before they had lactase persistence,” says Madeleine Bleasdale, a co-author of the new work and a specialist in ancient proteins at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History."


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    You are right, but what's for sure is that the people had to start to dring milk unprocessed at some point, because otherwise the selection for lactase persistence would make no sense. The population has first to introduce the regime under which the selection took place. So all people which are now lactose tolerant had to start from a largely intolerant population which just consumed large amounts of unprocessed milk, which gave the lactase persistent individuals the key advantage to spread the respective allel.
    Its like getting darker skinned by exposing oneself to high UV radiation. The selection starts with the exposure of a population.

  3. #3
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    Razib Khan has posted on the paper. He's right. No one completely understands it, just like no one completely understands the selection for light skin alleles.

    I know it from personal experience. I carry two copies of the lactase persistence allele. Yet, while I can digest cheese and yoghurt occasionally, a glass of milk is a bomb. Now, that only happened way into adulthood, which tells me perhaps there was a mutation in one of the alleles, or it can just wear out for some reason, but the point remains. Drinking milk is very different from just "consuming dairy". With the methods we have we can't tell when the former began without ill effect. It can't be all that long ago because, as Khan says, levels weren't even that high in the Iron Age. The big increase was in the last 1000 years.

    See:
    https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2021/...genes-for-milk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Angela View Post
    Razib Khan has posted on the paper. He's right. No one completely understands it, just like no one completely understands the selection for light skin alleles.

    I know it from personal experience. I carry two copies of the lactase persistence allele. Yet, while I can digest cheese and yoghurt occasionally, a glass of milk is a bomb. Now, that only happened way into adulthood, which tells me perhaps there was a mutation in one of the alleles, or it can just wear out for some reason, but the point remains. Drinking milk is very different from just "consuming dairy". With the methods we have we can't tell when the former began without ill effect. It can't be all that long ago because, as Khan says, levels weren't even that high in the Iron Age. The big increase was in the last 1000 years.

    See:
    https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2021/...genes-for-milk
    Its true that that levels were still rising up until modernity, with a possible peak in Iron Age to Medieval times. It is, from my point of view, easy to explain, as the commoners in the North shifted from eating a good range of food to eating as a primary food something close to porridge, so raw milk with corn, to put it simple. That primary food for the poor and common people in the North meant that the selection for LP had to increase drastically, in my opinion, and it might have even been associated with lighter pigmentation, because vitamin D deficiency should have increased for the same reasons.

    Now concerning individual examples of people which can digest milk well or badly with or without the LP allel, one has to consider that there are
    - more allels which influence the digestion of milk
    - specific diseases can harm the digestive tract and result in all kinds of intolerances.

    Like people can get intolerant to specific foods, including milk, by having a very bad infectious disease of the digestive tract. That's actually a major health issue, related to all kind of primary and secondary diseases, becasue digestion is so important for ones health. From my point of view the research in this direction is still rather at the beginning of the journey and therapies too are clearly insufficient.
    So individual cases are really not representative. Also, its known that even among people considered lactose tolerant the amount of milk they can consume without getting issues can vary by a lot. However, in much of Northern Europe fresh milk was really one of THE primary foods to consume regularly. Like there were many places in Scandinavia where people just put a glass of fresh milk on the table all the time. The amount they consumed easily exceeds the levels people consume today in the West and obviously the importance for their diet, for their sheer survival, was many times greater than any time before or afterwards - up until now.

    So probably there is more to the individual variation of tolerance to lactose than just this single allel, yet its importance can't be overestimated. I'm lactose intolerant by the way and had to learn it the hard way in my early adulthood, because I had no troubles before, netiher do my parents. I just happened to get two non-LP copies from them by chance.

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