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Dairy Demystified: An Indian perspective

June 12, 2015

It is so ironic that three out of four Indians have no milk tolerance says a recent study and the country is the world’s largest producer of dairy products and also their largest consumer.In the Indian dairy land, cattle have a long history in India, considered as an icon of worship in ancient times and even now in some places. From there, India has grown to become the world’s largest producer of dairy. Traditionally Indians processed milk through fermentation to produce cheese, dahi, paneer, buttermilk and consume them as the lactose is broken in these products in contrast to the present day milk & milk based beverages.

 

Three out of four Indians have no milk tolerance says a recent study and the country is the world’s largest producer of dairy products

 

Many Indians consider themselves as lactose tolerant, meaning their ability to digest lactose, a sugar present in milk. Recent studies say that three of out four Indians have no milk tolerance, which again questions ancient wisdom which emphasizes the importance of milk in our diet.  Lactose intolerance primarily arises as an age-induced change where, slowly and gradually, the body finds it difficult to digest milk and its byproducts due to weaning amounts of lactase, an enzyme produced by the intestines. Lactose intolerance primarily arises as an age-induced change where, slowly and gradually, the body finds it difficult to digest milk and its byproducts due to weaning amounts of lactase produced by the intestines.The well-established fact that North Indians seems to better tolerate milk than South Indians, possibly due the fact that descendants of the Aryans who have been dairying for long are known to be lactose tolerant.But a recent study found that only 18 percent of people in India are digesting milk which again is about questioning whether the Aryan Invasion theory is true or not?

 

Digging up deeper, lactose tolerance is something that resulted from evolution facilitated by a genetic mutation that appeared in the last 10,000 years - the ancient caveman never had dairy in his diet!  So, this trait has evolved several times in different populations around the world.  The finding of the study suggest that this mutation having its roots in the Middle East slowly spread east ward to India via the Persian Gulf making it very possible of the cattle herding communities of the north west India to digest lactose easily, thus making them lactose tolerant. The persistent production of the enzyme lactase could be attributed to lactose tolerance and has been the source of nourishment to humans since then.

 

To simply put, lactose intolerance is a condition that is thought to primarily arise as an age-induced change where, slowly and gradually, the body finds it difficult to digest milk and its byproducts due to weaning amounts of lactase produced by the intestines. The recent genetic science adds on, saying your genes could play a very important role whether you are tolerant to lactose or not. Genetic studies have shown that mutation at a single position in MCM6 gene is associated with decrease in lactase activity which may lead to lactose intolerance.

 

The mystery is so many believe themselves to be lactose tolerant but are genetically unable to produce lactase into adulthood.  It is possibly because they experience less severe symptoms of lactose intolerance and might miss observing the consequences of failing to digest dairy. Another possible reason could be the preparation method – fermenting it breaks the lactose within the milk.

 

So, are you wondering whether you will be able to digest lactose present in milk, worry not - get a genetic assessment test done today.

 

 

 

 

 

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