Some experts say that this product can cause cancer. And others are sure: this is the perfect food! So should adults drink milk? And the children? We have found answers to the most frequent questions about milk.
Milk is the most ancient food of man, it was drunk from time immemorial?
And that’s not the case. From time immemorial, babies have been fed on their mother’s milk. And the milk of animals got into the diet of our ancestors much later than meat and plants.
Moreover, ancient people were not able to digest milk. This became clear when scientists deciphered the genome of a man who lived 5300 years ago, and whose remains were found in the Alps. So the gene responsible for the assimilation of milk, in our prehistoric ancestors was turned off. And in general, at the dawn of mankind, this gene was turned on only in infants who were breastfed by their mothers.
Humanity had to learn to drink milk in order to survive. When migration from Africa began 2,000 years ago, the nomads who raised animals for meat and hides needed a new source of nutrition – they became animal milk. History is silent about how many people died in this case – including due to the fact that someone could not eat cow’s or mare’s milk. So not everyone survived, but only those who began a slow evolution of the digestive system.
Why don’t adults digest milk?
In 2009, the young Australian motorcycle racer Casey Stoner suddenly retired from the race at the competition, he suddenly became ill. And then he had to retire from the sport. It turned out that the athlete has an acute intolerance to milk sugar – lactose.
Lactose normally breaks down into glucose and galactose and is so absorbed by our body. To break down lactose, you need an enzyme called lactase. In the 1970s, Soviet scientists discovered that there is a gene variant in which the synthesis of this enzyme stops. At first, scientists thought that this was abnormal. And then they found that initially, all adults do not absorb milk sugar, and this is exactly the norm. A DNA mutation is a reason why adults can drink milk and get nothing for it.
In ancient Rome, milk was used not as a food product, but as a medicine (for example, as a laxative). If you do not have this enzyme, then you are not able to break down lactose, and the milk you drink remains in the intestines, where it causes bloating, swelling, diarrhea.
How many adults can’t drink milk?
Now the ancestors of the man who was the first to digest milk have spread across the northwest of Europe. Some of them live, for example, in Italy, in Russia.
But this happy DNA mutation was not received by all people. The Chinese, for example, instead of cow’s milk, drink soy (from soybeans) or rice (from rice). In China, by the way, even black milk (from black soybeans) is sold. It is especially difficult to digest milk for blacks and Hispanics. On average, on our planet, inhabited by more than 4 billion people, about 6 people out of 10 do not tolerate milk.
However, even in our country, with its traditional culture of milk consumption and products from it, not everyone drinks it. According to some reports, from a third to a half of adult Russians do not digest milk.
Why do we need milk at all?
Today, scientists go to great lengths to make it easier for a person to drink milk. They came up with tablets with the enzyme lactase, even milk without lactose is produced. Nutritionists suggest replacing milk with kefir – in it, milk sugar is eaten by lactic acid bacteria. And why is all this being done? In order to get calcium from milk, so necessary for our bones.
Is it true that only natural milk is a good source of calcium?
It is believed that calcium is best absorbed from dairy products. Three glasses of milk (in 250 ml – 315 mg) contain the daily norm of calcium for an adult (800-1100 mg). But, of course, among adults, there are few lovers of drinking such an amount of milk every day. So you can (and this is effective) eat dairy products with a high calcium content – cottage cheese, cheese, and yogurt.
And what do those who do not tolerate dairy products do?
Milk is not the only calcium-rich food. Calcium is also abundant, for example, in broccoli or almonds. But for its assimilation, appropriate conditions are needed – for example, vitamin D, which, in turn, is synthesized under the action of ultraviolet radiation. So in a hot sunny climate, it is easier to do without milk – I basked in the sun (got vitamin D), took a bite of broccoli (got calcium) and everything is normal.
Residents of the Far North, who have little sun and milk is not digested, have another source of vitamin D and calcium. They eat the liver and fat of marine animals and fish. Vitamin D is formed there because animals feed on algae. Deer meat and fat are also good sources of vitamin D.
But even here it is not so simple. To get their rate of calcium and vitamin D, the Nenets has to eat 2 kg of deer meat and fish per day plus 200 g of fat (in fact, this is a pack of butter a day!).
In Soviet times, the peculiarities of the metabolism of the inhabitants of the Far North were not known. And of course, when the children of reindeer herders got into boarding schools on a large land, they received ordinary food. As a result, after drinking milk, such children had a disorder that was unsuccessfully treated with antibiotics.
Can milk be dangerous?
We have already talked about acute intolerance to milk sugar – lactose. But in the milk itself, there are elements that can be dangerous. 77% milk consists of water, but it has fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Casein, globulin, albumin – these three types of proteins make milk very useful, but because of them, it is also a strong allergen.
An allergy to milk can be acute, in which case a person gets Quincke’s edema by drinking a glass of milk. And you can suffer from asthma all your life and not guess that it’s an allergy to cheese, yogurt, ice cream. Many people do not even know that they are allergic to milk and products containing it.
Is milk useful for adults?
If you can metabolize it and you don’t have allergies, yes. Long-term studies of various domestic and foreign institutes of dietetics provide reliable scientific evidence that people who consume enough milk and prefer butter to margarine have a stronger immune system. Dairy products saturate the body with vitamins and trace elements, and, of course, they serve as an excellent source of calcium. And this is especially important for adults – because osteoporosis is just around the corner.
In addition, it is worth remembering that milk is also a casein protein, which creates a thin film on the surface of tooth enamel that prevents the loss of calcium and phosphorus under the influence of an acidic environment. There are studies that confirm that the more often a person drinks milk, the lower his risk of caries.
Do I need to drink milk from children?
It’s up to the parents to decide. If a child is allergic to milk, then it is clear that you need to look for another source of calcium.
For everyone else, let’s just give two facts.
- Fact one. Osteoporosis destroys the skeletal system of every fourth woman after 60 years. And resistance to osteoporosis is laid at the age of 8-9 years. It turned out that in girls the maximum ability to absorb calcium remains up to 10 years. After this age, it begins to decline.
- Fact two. The Japanese and Chinese, as we have already found out, traditionally do not drink milk and do not digest it well. However, after the introduction of the program, in which every child in a Japanese school compulsorily received a glass of milk, it was found that the nation grew – on average by 8-10 cm.
So the health of your baby is in your hands, that is, in a glass of milk.
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