Northern Europeans are the most tolerant

At least, that is the claim of a study an article about which was just published in the prestigious journal ‘Science’.

It really is a most fascinating study which tracks the spread of the genes responsible for lactose tolerance throughout the human population.

Did you know that there were actually three separate gene mutations that enable humans to digest milk into adulthood, each one in a different geographic area?  One is from Western Africa, another is from Asia and the third one is believed to have occurred in the plains of Hungary and made its carriers capable of producing so many more fertile offspring that they outperformed the initial inhabitants.

This third one is now most concentrated from central to northern Europe.

There is a nifty map in the article showing lactose tolerance within the human population:


Most people who retain the ability to digest milk can trace their ancestry to Europe, where the trait seems to be linked to a single nucleotide in which the DNA base cytosine changed to thymine in a genomic region not far from the lactase gene. There are other pockets of lactase persistence in West Africa (see Nature 444, 994–996; 2006), the Middle East and south Asia that seem to be linked to separate mutations3 (see ‘Lactase hotspots‘).

The single-nucleotide switch in Europe happened relatively recently. Thomas and his colleagues estimated the timing by looking at genetic variations in modern populations and running computer simulations of how the related genetic mutation might have spread through ancient populations4. They proposed that the trait of lactase persistence, dubbed the LP allele, emerged about 7,500 years ago in the broad, fertile plains of Hungary.’

Very fascinating and the article, with maps and fascinating factoids, like that most of the European cattle are genetically closer related to Middle Eastern cattle than to the aurochs that were native to Europe.

8 Responses to “Northern Europeans are the most tolerant”

  1. Juggernaut Says:

    Milk is an excellent source of macronutrients as it has carbs, protein and fat. However, much of the praise for milk is driven by propaganda by the agriculture industry.

  2. CodeSlinger Says:


    The two greatest benefits I notice about drinking milk straight from the cow are improved satiety (it takes less food to make me feel satisfied) and improved digestion (no more gas after eating large salads). I’m convinced both result from the regeneration of gut flora due to the presence of the requisite species of beneficial bacteria in the milk. These are absent from store-bought milk because pasteurization kills them.

    The gut biome is far more important than most people realize. In a healthy person, it consists of an intricately balanced ecology of thousands of species of bacteria that actively assist the digestion process. There are many things we simply can’t digest properly in the absence of a full complement of gut bacteria.

    And every time you take antibiotics, you kill them all. Yoghurt will bring back a few species, and a good quality medicinal pro-biotic will bring back a few more, but you have very little chance of regenerating the full biome if all you eat is sterile processed food.

    My cow is very healthy, so her milk is delicious, nutritious and pro-biotic in ways store-bought milk can’t hope to match. Plus, the cream floats to the top overnight, just in time for morning coffee. What could be better?

    • Juggernaut Says:

      for me, that wouldn’t be feasible. and if it were, i would feel uncomfortable staring at a cow knowing that I’m going to drink his fluids soon. nothing wrong with that i guess. just an idiosyncrasy i suppose.

      • xanthippa Says:

        HER fluids – by definition!

        Yesterday, we went out to the farm to see our cow and boy, she and another cow were so talkative…I’ve never seen that before! They came right up to us, looking straight at us just kept mooing every time we said something to her!

        They looked very happy and well looked after. I feel good that our cow is out, in the field, and happy – rather than stuck in some factory farm somewhere.

        But I do agree that this is not a possible for everyone – it is a rare luxury.

  3. CodeSlinger Says:


    Would you also feel uncomfortable staring at a chicken, knowing that you’re going to eat her eggs soon?

    Dude… you need to get out of the city!

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