A while back we posted a holiday recipe for eggnog that explained how 7,500 years or so ago, humans in the region between the central Balkans and central Europe developed “lactase persistence.” According to a study by Professor Mark Thomas of University College London (UCL) Genetics, Evolution and Environment, “Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most Europeans continue to produce lactase throughout their life, a characteristic known as lactase persistence. In Europe, a single genetic change (13,910*T) is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage.”1
Domestication of animals and a rise in farming spurred the evolution of milk products, and humans adapted accordingly. Early protein remnants in clay vessels have been found in present-day Romania and Hungary dating back more than 7,000 years and attesting to the presence of dairy farming. Farms in England of 6,000 years ago give evidence of yogurt, butter and cheese production. Romans used goat and sheep milk for cheese, and Germanic and Celtic tribes drank abundant quantities of fresh milk from cattle. As populations migrated, this genetic trait became more widespread.2
Justin Cook, assistant professor of economics at the University of California-Merced, furthers the elaboration of the benefits of dairy by correlating lactose persistence with economic development, and by extension, the rise in later colonial explorations. Cook says the lactase persistent allele, or genetic variant, evolved along with the growth of dairy production, which conferred upon humans three benefits related to economic development:
- Dairying represented a technological advance in “fixed resources,” that is, land and animals provided reliable resources to enable continued and increased sustenance.
- The fats, proteins and other nutrients in milk were consistently available to farmers, improving overall health and resistance to illness, which in turn led to increased production and economic growth.
- Milk production could have had the effect of increasing fertility, offering women another milk source for their infants and thus re-starting their fertility cycle that would have not been active while lactating.3
Thus, according to Cook, “A statistically strong and robust relationship is found between the fraction of a country’s population that is lactase persistent, or able to consume milk, and economic development in 1500 C.E., a period representative of the precolonization era. 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.”4
Got milk I mean, that? So enjoy your ice cream, cheeses, yogurt, milk and all their variations. And be sure to give a nod to our ancestors’ quirk in genetics that thousands of years ago paved the way.
Shrimp Avocado Salad
Recipe courtesy of iFoodReal
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 7 servings
Method: No Cook
Cuisine: American Ukrainian
- 3/4 cup regular or Greek plain yogurt, 2+% fat
- 2 tsp any light colour vinegar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper, to taste
Shrimp Avocado Salad:
- 1 lb cooked frozen shrimp, thawed & drained
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in halves
- 2 large bell peppers, chopped
- 3 medium avocados, chopped
- 1 (1 lb) long English cucumber, chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- In a small bowl, add yogurt, vinegar, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork and set aside.
- Chop vegetables and add them to a large salad bowl.
- Pour dressing on top and mix gently to combine. Serve chilled.
Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 2 days (dressed is OK).
If using thick Greek yogurt, thin it out with a few tbsp of water.
Smaller size shrimp is great for this salad as it’s cheaper. If using large shrimp, cut in half.