Why can’t Asians tolerate milk?

The main reason is that Asians lack an enzyme, namely lactase. Lactase is needed to split the milk sugar lactose into its digestible substances. Infants produce this enzyme to digest breast milk. If it is missing, the lactose begins to ferment in the large intestine. This leads to symptoms such as  bloating , colic,  diarrhea . However, the Asians are not the only ones who “suffer” from this deficiency, because most adult mammals – including humans – normally do not tolerate  milk .

Northern and Central Europeans as an exception

But why is it that most northern and central Europeans are an exception? The reasoning is as simple as it is understandable in terms of historical development: as long as mankind was not familiar with dairy farming, adults could not enjoy milk. Consequence: They lost the ability to form lactase after infancy.

However, this only had consequences when people in the Near East began to tame animals and drink their milk around 12,000 years ago. They noticed that they could not tolerate the fresh animal milk. However, they were not dependent on milk as a source of calcium. This for three reasons:

  • They had enough green leafy vegetables to eat
  • They consumed enough sea fish and thus enough  vitamin D
  • They absorbed enough sunlight to allow the body to make vitamin D

Not so in Northern Europe: Dairy farming gradually spread there. But there weren’t enough green leafy vegetables available, nor was there enough sunlight to produce vitamin D. Milk was therefore used as a source of calcium.

The northern Europeans, who could drink and digest the milk of their animals, asserted themselves genetically and reproduced successfully.


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