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Forum LockedMilk and the Andes civilization

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    Posted: 22-May-2009 at 02:45

When studying the contact (discovery or invasion, if you wish) between the Americas and Europe, one realize that Native Americans were extraordinary farmers. In fact, half the foods we eat today, including maize, corn, potatoes, tomatos, squash, turkey, etc, were all domesticated and breed in the Americas. In animals the provision was smaller, but they had turkey, ducks, chickens (Chile) and at least guinea pigs, beside wild animals. However, no matter how much food they have they lacked something so obvious that it amazes me: they didn't have milk!

Milk was produced in the Old World by several animals. Cows can produce milk, as well as donkeys, goats and sheeps, among other animals. Natives of the Andes had a large animal that potentially could produce milk: the llama. However, that animal produced so few there is not evidence at all llamas were used for milk in precolumbian times.
 
Milk is drunk everywhere from Europe to India and China. Mongolians in Central Asia and natives of Africa get lots of theirs proteins and calories from milk. Yogurt and Cheese are an ancient and widespread tradition all over Eurasia. Americans didn't know about it. Just imagine a world without milk, yogurt and cheese.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 02:58
What does llama milk and its milk products taste like?

Is it possible that the natives never sought to farm this milk because they suffered from lactose intolerance?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 03:20

Lactose intolerance may have been part of the reason, although I am not sure if all natives had that problem. I doubt it, because milk is consummed regularly by South Americans these days. 

According to the article, llama milk doesn't have much difference with the rest of animal milks. The only problem is that llamas produce so few milk they can hardly feed theirs own babies.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 04:54
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Lactose intolerance may have been part of the reason, although I am not sure if all natives had that problem. I doubt it, because milk is consummed regularly by South Americans these days.

Intersting, although we must take into account the fact that in some Latin American countries, Europeans genetics strongly to contribute to the population and pay pass on the typical European lactose tolerance. This factor, of course, was not present in pre-Columbian times.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 05:20
This study is in Lactose Intollerancy in South American Indians. It is quite old. Amazingly, that intollerance affect as well East Asians and Africans in similar degree.
 
 
And this is medical information from the U.S.
 
 
I extracted this very interesting paragraph. It is amazing the number of Americans that are affected
 

Between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant and certain ethnic and racial populations are more affected than others. Up to 80 percent of African Americans, 80 to 100 percent of American Indians, and 90 to 100 percent of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant. The condition is least common among people of northern European descent.Babies that are born prematurely are also more likely to be lactose intolerant, because lactase levels do not increase until the third trimester of a woman’s pregnancy.

This is quite curious. In Chile we consume a lot of milk, cheese and other products, and I have never ever heared about lactose intollerance before.
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 05:46

Some interesting information aditional. 60% of Chilean population has the condition of Intollerance to lactose. Now I realize why milk without cream is so common here.

 
Now, the fact that an individual is possitive doesn't mean it get sick drinking a glass of milk at all. There are degrees of tollerancy, and some people can get the symptoms after abuse. Few can't resist drinking milk at all.
 
In Chile, at least, Cheese, Yogurt, Ice cream and Milk is consummed in very large scale.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 08:03
This is what I suspected to be the case. Native Americans, going back 10,000 years, are derived of the genes typical in north and east Asia. A great many people in such countries as China, Korea and Japan are lactose intolerant.

Many Europeans, particularly northerners, have long enjoyed the pastoral practices which allowed them to farm and consume milk products in significant quantities. Individuals who were lactose tolerant therefore enjoyed an advantage over those who were not, as they benefitted from the availability of an additional food source and the nutritional benefits particular to dairy consumption (e.g. vitamin C and calcium). Given time, we could expect the individuals carrying those genes to enjoy an advantage in passing on those genes to the next generation.

In Latin America, the natives did not have access to such a productive dairy animal as the cow, so being lactose tolerant did not bring an individual as many advantages as someone living in Germany or Kazakhstan.

Also, how long ago did the Native Americans domesticate the llama? I suspect their domestication of the llama was a lot more recent than Old World domestication of their local dairy herds. If this is the case, then even if Native Americans did extract milk from the llama, they would not have had as long for lactose tolerant individuals to spread their genes more prolifically.

I suspect the reason Chileans are able to enjoy milk products is due to the large number of pure European ard mixed European people living there. Many Chileans would inherit the lactose tolerance from the European part of their ancestry, though not exclusively from there. I think that if we travelled to Bolivia, with its higher percentage of pure breed Native American people, that we would see a higher percentage of lactose intolerance also.


Edited by Constantine XI - 22-May-2009 at 08:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 15:44

Well, it seems that lactose intollerance doesn't stop people from drinking milk. It is just that people that have that characteristic are more expossed to get intoxicated if they drunk too much of it.

Is is true or not what I am saying?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 16:02
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Well, it seems that lactose intollerance doesn't stop people from drinking milk. It is just that people that have that characteristic are more expossed to get intoxicated if they drunk too much of it.

Is is true or not what I am saying?


They do not become intoxicated, they simply end up with gastrointestinal problems such as a feeling of sickness and stomach cramping. You would not want to keep drinking and eating something that makes you feel sick.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-May-2009 at 17:32
That's the point. People carrying the intolerancy, still could drink milk in moderation and won't notice it. In fact, in my country I have never seen people sick for driking milk, whatsoever. In the 60s and 70s, when my country was poorer, there were massive campains to give milk to kids at schools. No ambulance never went there at all.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-May-2009 at 08:29

Donkeys, elephants, pigs and sheep aren't milked; all of them could be as well. In fact I'm quite puzzled as to why ancient populations didn't milk pigs and selectively breed them to produce larger amounts of milk, considering their milk is closer to what humans produce and has higher fat and protein concentrations than cow milk. 

I think it's just a case of necessity being the mother of invention. Increased dairy production from an animal and lactose tolerance in human populations are a consequence of dairy practices, not a cause of them. Animals are selectively bred to produce more and better milk, and human populations acquire lactose tolerance in areas where it was an important part of the diet.

I think climate is the chief factor here. Dairy may have spread to all parts of the world, but I think it probably arose in the cultures where it remains a bigger part of the diet (eg northern Europe and central Asia), because it was a steady source of food throughout the winter or in areas where agriculture was difficult. Also, it stores easily - in fact, several dairy products were probably discovered through spoilage (eg cheese and yogurt). 

In Peru, they just didn't take up the practice for the same reason many Eurasian populations only acquired it by diffusion and never did feature it as a major portion of the diet. There's not a whole lot of cheese and milk in the diet of Southeast Asia, for instance. The little that there is probably arrived by diffusion rather than arising out of any necessity or advantage.

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