Story 2014-12-13 2VWY Europeans were lactose intolerant for 4,000 years

Europeans were lactose intolerant for 4,000 years

by
in science on (#2VWY)
New research has revealed that ancient Europeans adapted the ability to digest dairy much later than expected. It’s long been known that after humans transitioned from hunter gatherers to farmers, many populations also evolved the ability to tolerate lactose, a sugar found in dairy. But new DNA evidence now shows that this ability evolved much later in certain populations - and for 4,000 years ancient Europeans were eating cheese, despite not being able to stomach it.

Scientists had estimated that lactose tolerance must have evolved around 7,000 years ago or more, when cheese-making first started. But the researchers found that the genes didn’t actually appear until 3,000 years ago. The next step is to map the distribution of the lactose-tolerant gene further, and find out more about how our genetics changed in response to our diet.

This seems to show that human evolution doesn't happen as quickly as expected, and lends some credence to the saying: Starving people have no food allergies.
Reply 21 comments

and so the chimney was invented (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-12-14 02:57 (#2VXA)

The overarching thought for centuries was that the chimney was invented to flue smoke from an abode. Not so, it seems, given the coincidence of chimney technology against the upswing of cheese consumption by lactose intolerant people.

Re: and so the chimney was invented (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-12-14 12:40 (#2VXQ)

Viva ventilation!!!

Re: and so the chimney was invented (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-12-15 01:09 (#2VY9)

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, direct from the History Channel's Modern Marvels episode on toilets & sanitation:
You realize how bad the situation was if you look at the palace of Versailles. A fortune was spent in constructing it. It had these wonderful halls of mirrors, elaborate chandeliers, and you might have a thousand people being entertained. Eating and drinking copiously, but where did they go to the bathroom? There was not a single bathroom in the entire elaborate palace. And the answer is, they went in the stairwells. One of the reasons the French applied so much perfume during that period was to overcome all of the indoor odors from people relieving themselves.
And the idea that a man walks on the left side of the female dates back to this time. It was polite for him to get hit by the contents of the chamber pot and spare the woman.

Re: and so the chimney was invented (Score: 1)

by lmariachi@pipedot.org on 2014-12-15 22:10 (#2VZ6)

Not left/right, but rather walking between the lady and the buildings the chamber pots were being emptied out of. With the advent of indoorish plumbing, the decorum switched to walking on the outside, that the gentleman might shield the lady from gutter contents splashed up by passing carriages.

Re: and so the chimney was invented (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-12-16 11:19 (#2VZS)

NEW TOPIC required. Now regretting this offcoloured joke.

Starving people... (Score: 1)

by billshooterofbul@pipedot.org on 2014-12-15 17:29 (#2VYT)

Either die from their food allergies or figure out how to survive them. It doesn't mean they don't have them.

There is a crazy part of our population that thinks that what ever we did before we had civilization was better. Like "modern medicine" is somehow worse than eating some crazy diet that people think (despite double blind tests to the contrary) solves the same problem. This "starving people have no food allergies" is of the same thinking. Its like people forget how high our mortality rate used to be, and how short our life expectancy was.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 1)

by skarjak@pipedot.org on 2014-12-15 17:36 (#2VYV)

I think what you said is kind of obvious. No one says "starving people have no food allergies" expecting that to mean that starvation magically cures allergies.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 1)

by billshooterofbul@pipedot.org on 2014-12-17 18:16 (#2W1R)

Well, its usually said to imply that food allergies are somehow psychological in nature. Implying that if you had no other choice, you would discover that you really aren't allergic to foods. Often said about people who say they have gluten intolerance ( while that's a different topic, they do get lumped together).

Re: Starving people... (Score: 1)

by skarjak@pipedot.org on 2014-12-17 21:44 (#2W23)

The people who think allergies are psychological are morons though. I don't think that's what was happening here.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 2, Insightful)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2014-12-21 18:42 (#2W7X)

In another culture, there's a similar expression: "with hunger, the bread is never too hard." Same idea, but a bit more difficult to twist into the ridiculous thread that ensued from this comment.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 2, Informative)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-12-15 18:21 (#2VYX)

I think you over-interpret
starving people have no food allergies
Not every food allergy is deadly. Some, perhaps most, are only very inconvenient. Flatulence, bad rashes, whatever. While in normal times people rightfully stay away from perhaps embarrassing or even painful, but not immediately deadly side effects, starving people don't have this luxury. I think above proverb quite nicely summarizes this fact.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 1)

by fishybell@pipedot.org on 2014-12-15 19:33 (#2VZ1)

Just a nit I have to pick: Lactose intolerance isn't a food allergy, it's the body not producing lactase. If you were allergic to lactose, eating would definitely kill you. The phrase "food allergy" has a specific meaning related to anaphylaxis, which is extremely dangerous; often deadly.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-12-15 20:34 (#2VZ3)

Lactose intolerance isn't a food allergy, it's the body not producing lactase
True, but in this context irrelevant.
The phrase "food allergy" has a specific meaning related to anaphylaxis,
Most likely wrong.
According to:
http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies
Anaphylaxis is only the most severe allergic reaction. There are plenty of reactions, which are less severe. Some can almost be described as only annoying:
Delayed reactions are most typically seen in children who develop eczema as a symptom of food allergy
Nevertheless, you can find plenty of false information googling. I am not an expert, but for me the source looks plausible.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 1, Informative)

by fishybell@pipedot.org on 2014-12-17 21:09 (#2W22)

No, I'll take that back. I was right. Your link even states the truth:
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. Just because an initial reaction causes few problems doesn’t mean that all reactions will be similar; a food that triggered only mild symptoms on one occasion may cause more severe symptoms at another time.

Re: Starving people... (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-12-18 07:22 (#2W2M)

a food that triggered only mild symptoms on one occasion may cause more severe symptoms at another time.
...may cause...
This is only a possibility. This does not exclude, that many people never have a severe reaction. And it does not exclude that even if such a risk of a severe reaction does exist, it is so rare that it does not prevent the allergic persons to pass on their genes... An opportunity these persons might never have had, if they rather starved than accepted the risk.

Btw.. a friend of mine is allergic to flavour enhancers. Not really a big deal. He gets some minor skin problems. From time to time he says (more or less): "F**k it... today I want to eat my ". I doubt he would do it, if doing so he constantly would had the sword of Damocles of a deadly reaction over his head.

I looked for some statistics, but did not have much time. So this must be enough:
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=15618
As many as one-third of peanut-sensitive patients have severe reactions, such as fatal and near-fatal anaphylaxis. ("Anaphylactic deaths in asthmatic patients," Allergy Proc., 1989)
I would interpret this that two-thirds never have fatal or near-fatal reactions.

This is silly (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-12-15 19:42 (#2VZ2)

In the fermentation of milk into cheese, the lactose is consumed by the bacteria. Well, most of it, and presuming simple fermentation practices. So what developing lactose tolerance did was allow some of the milk to be consumed before turning it into cheese. And allow the development of cheeses where milk or cream was re-added at a late stage of the process.

Re: This is silly (Score: 1)

by billshooterofbul@pipedot.org on 2014-12-17 18:19 (#2W1S)

Oh, yeah good point. It does have a lot less lactose than milk. Of course, it depends on the cheese.

Re: This is silly (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2014-12-18 18:39 (#2W3A)

Most modern cheeses have cream or milk re-added after most of the fermentation is done. This re-adds some lactose. Under simple methods of fermentation, however, this isn't done. So the lactose level is reduced considerably more.

Re: This is silly (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2014-12-19 03:06 (#2W3Y)

Hard dry cheeses are quite a bit lower in lactose than, say, milk, but most other types are not:

http://www.stevecarper.com/li/list_of_lactose_percentages.htm

And "less lactose than milk" is still nowhere near lactose-free.

Re: This is silly (Score: 1)

by tanuki64@pipedot.org on 2014-12-19 04:18 (#2W42)

Not long ago I saw a documentation about cheese/lactose/lactose intolerance in tv. One very strange fact was mentioned there, which is probably valid only for Europe: The percentage of people with lactose intolerance increases from the north to the south. However, at the same time the popular cheese in a region gets softer with a higher content of lactose in the same direction, i.e. the more you get south, the higher the lactose content. It is paradox that regions with the most lactose intolerant people prefer cheese with the highest lactose content.