60% Of Adults Can’t Digest Milk

This article from the USA Today is so good I am quoting all of it. The bolding is mine.

This may be significant, in my non-expert opinion, because some scientists believe that improperly digested lactose makes galactose build up in the blood, damaging the ovaries and may lead to ovarian cancer.

This is worse with cottage cheese and yogurt since these products contain more galactose. A 1989 study showed that women who ate a lot of dairy products, particularly yogurt and cottage cheese, had triple the risk for ovarian cancer.

The study was run by Dr. Cramer of Harvard, involved hundreds of women and a control group.

Cramer, D.W. and others, 1989. Galactose consumption and metabolism in
relation to the risk of ovarian cancer. Lancet 2, 66 – 71.

Got milk? If you do, take a moment to ponder the true oddness of being able to drink milk after you’re a baby.

No other species but humans can. And most humans can’t either.

The long lists of food allergies some people claim to have can make it seem as if they’re just finicky eaters trying to rationalize likes and dislikes. Not so. Eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish soy and gluten all can wreak havoc on the immune system of allergic individuals, even causing a deadly reaction called anaphylaxis.

But those allergic reactions are relatively rare, affecting an estimated 4% of adults.

Milk’s different.

There are people who have true milk allergies that can cause deadly reactions. But most people who have bad reactions to milk aren’t actually allergic to it, in that it’s not their immune system that’s responding to the milk

Instead, people who are lactose intolerant can’t digest the main sugar —lactose— found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so —lactase— stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

If you’re American or European it’s hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.

It’s not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world’s highest percentages of lactase tolerant people.

Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn’t really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it’s abnormal. Instead, they call it lactase persistence, indicating what’s really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk.

There’s been a lot of research over the past decade looking at the genetic mutation that allows this subset of humanity to stay milk drinkers into adulthood.

A long-held theory was that the mutation showed up first in Northern Europe, where people got less vitamin D from the sun and therefore did better if they could also get the crucial hormone (it’s not really a vitamin at all) from milk.

But now a group at University College London has shown that the mutation actually appeared about 7,500 years ago in dairy farmers who lived in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe, in what was known as the Funnel Beaker culture.

The paper was published this week in PLoS Computational Biology.

The researchers used a computer to model the spread of lactase persistence, dairy farming, other food gathering practices and genes in Europe.

Today, the highest proportion of people with lactase persistence live in Northwest Europe, especially the Netherlands, Ireland and Scandinavia. But the computer model suggests that dairy farmers carrying this gene variant probably originated in central Europe and then spread more widely and rapidly than non-dairying groups.

Author Mark Thomas of University College London’s dept of Genetics, Evolution and Environment says: “In Europe, a single genetic change…is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage.”

The European mutation is different from several lactase persistence genes associated with small populations of African peoples who historically have been cattle herders.

Researchers at the University of Maryland identified one such mutation among Nilo-Saharan-speaking peoples in Kenya and Tanzania. That mutation seems to have arisen between 2,700 to 6,800 years ago. Two other mutations have been found among the Beja people of northeastern Sudan and tribes of the same language family in northern Kenya.

Calcium alone may not prevent osteoporosis

I’ve read several of Dr. Andrew Weil’s books. I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but I like to read his opinions as they seem less biased. Dr. Andrew Weil is a medical doctor (M.D.) and popular health writer with an interest in alternative medicine. Dr. Weil is just as likely to endorse a conventional medical treatment as give a positive ( or negative ) review of an alternative treatment.

Here is what he has to say how about the relationship between calcium and osteoporosis. I’m not about to cut my calcium intake, but this is *fascinating*. Whatever does prevent osteoporosis is likely in lifestyle factors and the kinds of green vegetables people don’t eat enough of and should keep pushing themselves to eat more of.

In a number of countries, including Japan, India, and Peru, the average daily calcium intake is only 300 mg. That’s much less than the 1,000 mg recommended for adults between the ages of 19 and 50 in the U.S., yet the incidence of bone fractures in these countries is very low. In addition, evidence from some large studies indicates that calcium doesn’t actually reduce the risk of osteoporosis as we once thought. For example, in two studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, participants who drank one glass or less of milk per week had no greater risk of breaking a hip or forearm than those who drank two or more glasses of milk per week.

After reviewing this data and discussing it with Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, I’m revising my calcium recommendation downward. In the past, I recommended 1,200 mg daily in divided doses and 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women who were not on hormone replacement therapy. I now suggest that women supplement with 500 to 700 mg of calcium citrate in two divided doses taken with meals, for a total daily intake of 1,000-1,200 mg from all sources. For men, I now suggest aiming for 500 mg from all sources, and that men probably do not need to supplement (higher amounts have been linked to increased risks of prostate cancer). Men should also watch their dairy intake. The Harvard study determined that men who drank two glasses of milk a day (that translates to about 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium) had twice the incidence of developing advanced prostate cancer.

See the full article for more of Dr. Weil’s opinion on preventing osteoporosis.

Stranger In A Strange Land

Robert Heinlein was one of the most prominent science fiction writers and “Stranger In A Strange Land” was his flagship book. It contains extremely controversial views about sex, religion and politics with ample helpings of each.

The story opens with the arrival of Valentine Michael Smith at the Bethesda Naval Hospital after being marooned on Mars. Twenty years earlier the best and brightest of Earth had been sent on the first expedition to Mars. The extramarital affair during the mission that resulted in his birth also resulted in the entire crew being murdered in a crime of passion. While Earth was rebuilding after World War III Smith, who never had human contact, was being raised by the Martians.

While struggling to adapt to the heavier gravity of Earth, Smith is kidnapped by his nurse Gillian Boardman — the first human female he has ever seen. Through her boyfriend who is a star reporter, Boardman learns that Smith’s life is in danger. His mother, having invented a new spaceship drive before her death made Smith one of the most wealthy men on Earth. Having been the first human being born on Mars, Smith is the legal owner of the planet according to Earth law.

Smith and Boardman flee to the estate of Jubal Harshaw, the dominant character of the book. Harshaw was a famous public advocacy lawyer and a medical doctor, making him “twice as hard to push around”. Now in his advanced years, Harshaw is the exact opposite of Smith. Worldly, educated, and curmudgeonly he becomes Smith’s teacher as they avoid pursuit by the world government.

What follows is a series of expertly written dialogues between Smith – who is psychologically a Martian and Harshaw ( as well the staff on his estate ), as each learns about the other’s world.

Sexuality, religion, art, politics, human nature and even cannibalism are all called into question.

I first read this book when I was about twelve years old and some of these excellent conversations followed me in my thoughts through the course of my life.

It was in this book, that I first learned that the essence of the fine arts is not photographic reproduction but communicating a message. Harshaw explains why Rodin’s “La Belle Heaulmière” (The Old Courtesan) is one of his favorite pieces of art. Anyone could have carved out a sculpture of a beautiful woman, explains Harshaw, but Rodin was able to make people see the beautiful woman that the old woman once was.

Later in the book, Smith is despondent, despite having become educated about life on Earth. Having been raised by beings that defacto only had one sex and who interact with the dead as mundanely as we buy groceries, Smith just can’t understand humanity.

At a zoo Smith observes a chimpanzee brutally assaulting a smaller of his kind out of the possession of a treat. After sobbing, the smaller chimpanzee then turns on an even smaller member of his kind to do the exact same thing.

Smith brakes out laughing, – for the first time in his life. In a flash of insight Smith sees that the basis of humor is tragedy and that human beings are the only animals that laugh — or that need to. This according Smith, is what makes an animal a human being. Having just laughed, he has taken full possession of his humanity and comes at long last to fully understand people.

You just don’t get fascinating ideas like this in the movies, nor television and especially not on the internet. “Stranger In A Strange Land” is chock full of such interesting observations.

Reading this book again was reading it for the first time.

The content of “Stranger In A Strange Land” is dominated by sex and political intrigue, neither of which I understood when I was twelve. This time around I did not find the sex spooky. I did understand the political intrigue and I did understand Heinlein’s subtle yet damming satire of religion. I thought both were brilliant.

Heinlein was a highly intelligent, creative and stubborn man. He was pro-military, he was anti-draft, he was a strong social libertarian, anti-hippy, sex positive and a strong atheist.

You will get a truly unique mix of views about everything in his book “Stranger In A Strange Land”. Conservative and liberals alike, will be deeply offended. Everyone will be fascinated.

Run, do not walk to your local library.