Monday, August 05, 2013

You sure that milk does a body good? Always? For all?

When I was in the seventh or eighth grade, one afternoon I decided to open up the old valve-radio at home and take a look at things inside.  Yep, combine a curious kid with a boring afternoon and he can show you how many devils are at work inside an idle mind!

I thought I replaced the diodes and triodes in their respective slots.   But, apparently not, because the radio did not work when I rotated the knob to the on position.

My mother couldn't care.  Father lectured me on how GD Naidu used to include slippers by the different gadgets that were on display.  Apparently the gadgets had a note by the side that said anybody could play with the gadget as long as they knew what they were doing.  Should they meddle with it and screw things up, then the sign said that the rubber slippers by those gadgets would be used to beat the crap out of them.

He never beat me and even now I continue to screw things up all the time!

Anyway, father hired a young technician to fix my screw-up.  As always, father asked him if he would like to have coffee.  Turned out that it was another learning opportunity for me when he replied that he was allergic to milk.  Until that moment, I had not known of anybody whose systems could not process milk.

A few years later, I realized that my stomach making gurgling noises soon after I had ice cream or milkshakes was nothing but lactose intolerance, though on a much smaller scale.  Even a glass of milk.  It is funny how my system can process yogurt, or the milk sweets, cheese, and chocolate, but doesn't keep quiet if I were to feed it a glass of milk.  It is perhaps because I still retain a little bit of that old genetic formula that all humans once had before we gained the mutation to process lactose:
During the most recent ice age, milk was essentially a toxin to adults because — unlike children — they could not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. But as farming started to replace hunting and gathering in the Middle East around 11,000 years ago, cattle herders learned how to reduce lactose in dairy products to tolerable levels by fermenting milk to make cheese or yogurt. Several thousand years later, a genetic mutation spread through Europe that gave people the ability to produce lactase — and drink milk — throughout their lives. That adaptation opened up a rich new source of nutrition that could have sustained communities when harvests failed.
This two-step milk revolution may have been a prime factor in allowing bands of farmers and herders from the south to sweep through Europe and displace the hunter-gatherer cultures that had lived there for millennia. “They spread really rapidly into northern Europe from an archaeological point of view,” says Mark Thomas, a population geneticist at University College London. That wave of emigration left an enduring imprint on Europe, where, unlike in many regions of the world, most people can now tolerate milk.

Once we humans started domesticating animals--I still chuckle at the phrase "animal husbandry"--it was only a matter of time before we figured out we could consume cow's milk.  Well, except the legendary Khushwant Singh who has been an avid milk-avoider. He wrote a long time ago that he did not care to drink milk from animals because these did not come in attractive packages unlike the human milk he was given!

Slowly the dairy practice spread:

It is now practically a global habit to drink milk and consume milk products.  India's "White Revolution" has been discussed in plenty.  The large middle class in China that is rapidly gaining quite a bit of disposable income is one attractive market for exporters of milk and milk products.  That is a dog-bites-man kind of blah news, until something happens.

I suppose in our own ways, we are mutants, aren't we, with the many genetic mutations?  We, too, are X-Men!


Ramesh said...

See what the engineering profession lost ........

Is that how humans came to consume milk ?? I had no clue.

Sriram Khé said...

hehe ;)

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