Should Adults Really Be Drinking Milk? Studying Neolithic Ancestors Suggests Not

Should Adults Really Be Drinking Milk? Studying Neolithic Ancestors Suggests Not

(Read the article on one page)

Is drinking cow’s milk healthy for humans? Many remember the rush to get to the head of the line for milk at morning recess in elementary school and TV ads showing healthy kids running around the playground accompanied by the message that milk helps build healthy bones. But  scientific research  now questions if drinking milk is really a good idea. The answer may be found by studying the Neolithic humans who first started to practice dairy-related animal husbandry.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers discovered that until 8,000 years ago only children were able to digest lactose (a form of sugar present in milk); adults could not produce endogenous lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose.

Old Egyptian painting showing an early instance of a domesticated animal (the cow being milked).

Old Egyptian painting showing an early instance of a domesticated animal (the cow being milked). ( Public Domain )

But a genetic mutation occurred before the first farmers settled in Europe - humans began to be able to produce lactase their whole lives. Since then, most adults in Central and Northern Europe have been able to digest milk. It was less than 5000 years ago when this event occurred. Positive selection and recurrent waves of migration likely combined forces to make this happen.

Krishna milking a cow while the calf looks.

Krishna milking a cow while the calf looks. (Wellcome Images/ CC BY 4.0 )

Anthropologist Professor Joachim Burger of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) explained the ability to digest milk was a genetic adaptation:

"To appreciate the significance of our findings, it is important to realize that a major proportion of present-day central and northern Europeans descend from just a small group of Neolithic farmers who happened to be able to digest fresh milk, even after weaning.”

Sujatha milking the cow, Mahavehera Temple.

Sujatha milking the cow, Mahavehera Temple. ( CC BY SA 4.0 )

Nonetheless, 60% of people living in the world today still lack the enzyme  necessary to break down lactose – but many of them don’t know it and suffer from digestive and allergy issues related to milk consumption.

Okay, but we still need to drink milk to have strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, right? Maybe not. Our paleolithic ancestors didn’t drink milk, but they were stronger and more muscular than most people today. There is also no indication suggesting that advanced osteoporosis was a problem for them. This suggests that eating grains and vegetables may be enough to provide the necessary amount of calcium for adults to be healthy.

Apart from humans, no other mammal species continues to drink milk after infancy. A growing body of research suggests we should consider stopping the practice as well.

Sujatha milking the cow, Mahavehera Temple.

"The Milkmaid" (1657-1658), painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. ( Public Domain )

Top Image: Detail of ‘A Maid Milking a Cow in a Barn’ (1652-1654) by  Gerard ter Borch.  Source: Public Domain

By April Holloway

Comments

I don't need science to tell me that drinking milk is not for me. I do however trust my intuition and do not drink milk.  Milk is simply not human food or drink.  People who drink lots of milk smell awful, like milk having been spilt in the car on a hot day. Phew! i will go further and say that milk is unhealthy for humans.

 

Where is the medical and scientific support for the statement that adults should not drink milk?

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Myths & Legends

The ride to Asgard" by Peter Nicolai Arbo. 1872.
In the beginning there were only native forests and wasteland. The Aesirs, one main group of Norse gods, cleared places to stay, both for themselves and the humans. They named the human’s home Midgard – because it is placed in the middle of the world. And in the middle of Midgard

Human Origins

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article