Author: Giles Yeo

Why Some Humans Developed a Taste for Milk and Some Didn’t

Imagine a dinner party somewhere in Italy to which, as it turns out, my dad has been invited. On the menu tonight is a sliced tomato, basil and mozzarella salad, pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce topped with parmesan cheese, and Italian gelato ice cream to finish. However, except for the sliced tomatoes and basil, my dad cannot eat anything on offer and is destined to leave the party hungry. My dad is, as I am, ethnically Chinese – and, like the majority of Chinese folk, lactose intolerant. Although the inability to drink and eat dairy products (or more specifically the inability to digest lactose, the type of sugar found in milk) is commonly called “lactose intolerance”, this is actually a misnomer. All humans are lactose tolerant in early life because we are mammals. Most humans only switch to being lactose intolerant in the transition to adulthood. But if so many adults struggle to digest dairy, why did we start drinking the milk of other animals in the first place? Well, with the domestication of …