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Prior to the domestication of cattle (and other milk producing domesticated animals, such as goats), human populations produced the enzyme associated with the digestion of lactose only in periods prior to weaning or only during early childhood when mother’s milk served as an important form of sustenance.
These individuals are said to be lactase persistent, which is more commonly known as lactose tolerant.
Lactase persistence differs widely across the world with individuals ancestral to Northern Europe being almost exclusively lactase persistent and the opposite being the case for people ancestral to East Asia.
These genetic adaptations differ across ethnic populations and are ultimately the result of differences in historic environments.
Lactose tolerance, which enables milk consumption, is a prime example.
Finally, the consumption of milk increased a woman’s fertility.
The infertility period after giving birth is associated with lactation.And while it’s not likely milk consumption Justin Cook is an assistant professor of economics at the University of California-Merced.His research focuses on the role of genetic differences in explaining economic outcomes.By examining the historic effects of milk consumption, measured by a population’s ability to digest lactose, we can understand the Neolithic Revolution’s impact on economic development.Lactose Tolerance The ability to digest lactose, a sugar found within milk, is the textbook example of a recent genetic adaptation to different agricultural practices.The answer “yes” is more likely than you may think.From my research, it appears that the transition to agriculture, commonly referred to as the Neolithic Revolution, which first occurred roughly 10,000 years ago, produced genetic adaptations that were and continue to be favorable to the new agricultural environment and led to measurable improvements in economic and health outcomes.This is shown in Figure 1, which plots historical lactose tolerance frequencies for the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa). Country-level lactase persistence frequencies across the Old World.Darker areas represent more lactase persistent populations.And given the high frequency of lactose tolerance associated with European countries, milk consumption may have contributed to Europe’s colonization of most of the world starting in the late 15th century.One might assume, however, that the association between lactose tolerance and historic economic development is driven solely by a Europe versus the rest of the world effect. When omitting all European countries from the sample, the same positive relationship between the frequency of lactase persistence and historic economic development remains.