On the milky way

Published : 07/13/2018

On the milky way

Milk is probably one of the most established and researched foods out there. And despite the fact that our supermarkets burst over with ever-new milk alternatives such as oat, -almond, -rice, -hazelnut, -or soy milk, we still love the original! An average German consumes about 57 litres of milk per year, in addition about 24 kilo of cheese and about six kilo of butter. If one believes former advertisements then milk was promised to boost bone strength and provide ample amount of energy thanks to its high calcium and protein content.

If we go back to our “natural state”, then cow milk might be an ideal food for baby’s and calf’s because it feeds them what they need in order to grow. For adult health however, milk consumption is highly questionable as it is neither suited to their age nor to their species.

Speaking from a “natural perspective” humans aren’t milk drinkers. And certainly, no cow-milk-drinkers. Because milk contains next to protein, fat and vitamins also sugar. In human evolution, only infants are able to digest this milk sugar, known as lactose, when still in need for their mother’s milk. It was not until recently that lactose traditionally caused stomach aches – only about 7500 years ago the first Europeans started to adapt and began to digest the milk-sugar. The enzyme lactase helps infants to break down the sugar inside their mother’s milk. Once the child reached the age of five this was no longer necessary and the small intestine stopped producing the protein. Without the enzyme, our intestine is not able to take up the milk - sugar. As a consequence, it remains in our colon, where bacteria use it to produce substances like lactic acid and carbon dioxide. This often leads to stomach aches and might even cause intolerance, flatulence, and diarrhoea. Century-long adaptation enabled most Europeans to digest the milk-sugar. Thanks to a specific mutation of the LCT-gene our bodies maintain their lactate production even at an adult age. The digestibility of lactose however is by no means a global phenomenon: until today only few Asian people are able to digest the milk-sugar, as milk has so far not been part of their traditional food culture.

Whether or not milk really is as healthy as once proclaimed is being questioned by today’s science. Milk is thought to activate certain signalling pathways that have been associated with the development of acne, hardening of arteries, diabetes, obesity, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Milk protein are further thought to enhance the concentration of the growth factor IGF-1, which steers growth and development at a young age. Furthermore, milk contains MicroRNAs, whose effect on our cells remain to be unknown.

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