subject: milk intolerance

Ironing Out Allergy to Cow’s Milk Protein

Ironing Out Allergy to Cow’s Milk Protein

After hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and carrying the unrelenting burden of survival of the fittest, humans have increasingly become allergic to food. Who would have thought? It seems like the ultimate contradiction of our time. Heading the list of serial offenders are nuts, seafood, eggs, wheat, soy, and cow’s milk. About 8% of children and 5% of adults in Western countries are diagnosed with food allergies [8]. Scientists agree that the priming of allergic responses (sensitization) to some foods and the development of normal tolerance to foods generally occurs early in life [1,6,9]. Over the last two decades, the health authorities’ recommendations for when to introduce some of these foods to infants have radically changed as clinical investigators reveal new information that directly conflicts with past practices. One area of some confusion relates to the reason for the recommended late introduction of liquid cow’s milk to infants. Read More...

Milk and Potatoes Made the World Go Round

Milk and Potatoes Made the World Go Round

Population growth, urbanization and, as a consequence, economic and political development owe much to humankind’s ability to make use of two humble foodstuffs: milk and potatoes. That is the theory put forward by development economist C. Justin Cook, of the University of California, Merced. Read More...

Training Your Body to Digest Lactose

Training Your Body to Digest Lactose

The common understanding of the inability to properly digest lactose is that it’s all about genetics: either a particular gene in cells lining your upper intestine—which enables everyone to digest lactose as an infant—becomes inactive as you grow up, or it doesn’t. But the truth is less cut and dry. In fact, there is some recent and gathering evidence to suggest that those who suffer the symptoms of lactose intolerance could be better off by frequently consuming small quantities of the sugar that bothers them. Read More...

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Back in the 50s and 60s, work on lactose intolerance was often published under cringeworthy and blunt racial titles. A Nature article from 1969 sums it up with ‘Can Asians Digest Milk?’ It was also probably a subliminal non-accident that ‘lactose intolerance’—which is the typical condition for adult humans—became common parlance for a trait for which those with northern European ancestry are the real mutants. Many decades on, the genetic basis of the ability to digest lactose has been largely pinned down. As it turns out, there are different genetic reasons for the mutants’ lactose tolerance in the various populations that drink milk without intestinal incident, and the gene that confers mutant power in Europeans is only part of the story. That research history is discussed below, along with recent work that has extended the field’s reach beyond genetics. Investigations of the transcontinental basis of lactose tolerance are now providing insights into mankind’s cultural, as well as biological evolution. Read More...