Got Milk?

cow.jpgSo I recently learned – a little-known fact – that humans aren’t supposed to be drinking milk – after the age of two. Cows milk to be specific. 

Apparently, 60% of people are lactose intolerant and the other 40% are lactose tolerant and of European descent.

Why age two you ask? 

Well, babies are said to be born with something that’s called lactase, a chemical of some sort which allows their bodies (stomachs) to digest lactose – which is a form of sugar content found in milk.

But after age two our bodies stop producing this chemical and we, therefore, start experiencing challenges with digesting milk. I am one of those people who struggle with digesting milk and some products which may contain milk contents such as whey protein. But for some reason, I have no problem with gobbling down hard cheese. But I usually take dairy digestant tablets as an when it’s necessary to help my stomach with processing lactose.   

The other 40% is said to have some genetic mutation that seems to enable them to produce lactase on a continuous basis. Another interesting fact is that some people in the 60% don’t even know that they are lactose intolerant. 

One author also argues that it is this 40% that has convinced others to commercialize milk consumption at a global industrial level. They have normalised the abnormal to say.

It is said that the first mass milk production machine was created in the 1800’s. These machines were supported by the perception that milk consumption will make you fit and strong. This messaging was intended to encourage the consumption of milk as the demand was really low. 

Whilst there is no clear historical record of the first milk consuming community. Based on pure speculation and known historical records of the origins of domesticating farm animals like cows and goats, history points to Iraq and its surrounding areas.

Note to you: I did not say farming started in Iraq.

But what is a known fact though, is that humans are the only mammals who go out of their way to consume the milk of other mammals. Take for example the growing interest for camel’s milk in Australia because it has a similar taste to sheep’s milk. By the way, camels are a lot smarter mammals compared to cows. Unlike cows, a camel will stop lactating when she realises that her young has been separated from her. 

But with all that said India is the largest consumer of cows milk – not cows. Not sure if this can be attributed to the religious and cultural perception of cows as deities. But in the place of cows, Indian communities do slaughter buffalo.

Author Mark Kurlansky is the best source for research-based reading on the subject. I am not an expert on diets but so I would love to hear your thoughts or maybe some new facts or even book recommendations on the subject. 

About Anele Matshisi
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14 thoughts on “Got Milk?

  1. Cows milk has been the source of food for herdmen for centuries. They would take cooked mealie meal in the early hours of the morning and when they are hungry during the day, they would milk a cow and add the cows milk to the mealie meal for lunch. This was well before the commercialization of milk

    • True. Industrialisation of milk is recent. However the practice of consuming milk or normalisation of milk consumption can be linked to the Colonial crusades, take for examples in Amerikas the tribes started consuming the milk of animals heavily soon after the arrival of European crusaders. What is interesting though is that there is no clear link between the 40% lactose tolerant majority that is of European descent with history in Iraq. Maybe another point would be that there is no clear historical evidence of milk consumption as a perceived source of sustaince in Africa. The commercial heritage does not seem to predate the crusades, even though Africans have been livestock farmers for centuries and used the barter system for trade.

  2. Indeed, the book MILK! A 10000 Year Food Fracas is full of fascinating information.
    Milk, with its protein content, has been a key factor in helping the civilization to expand from the cradle of humanity in Eastern Africa. Protein-fed tribes always had the upper hand over the weaker neighbors and their strength helped them expand throughout Africa, the Middle East and sub-continental India, etc…

    • Thank you. I haven’t read much about goat’s milk but what I do know is that in many European communities goat milk products are considered a special treat. My observation on Africa and other parts of Asia, goats milk has been part of the general diet but I don’t have stats to back this up it’s just my observation. But as far as tolerance is concerned I have not come across research findings on them.

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