Lactase Persistance In Adults Essay

704 words - 3 pages

Human populations adapt and develop according to their environmental and cultural surroundings. As stated in Dr. Richard McElreath's online lecture, Introduction to Human Evolution, cultural variation is more prominent than genetic variation between different human populations. Survival methods and diet are distinct cultural customs of every population, thus traditions and habits such as food processing skills are passed on from one generation to the next. This was the result of the transfer of information and genes over time which constituted the ability to break down and digest lactose past youthful stages of development, allowing human adults to drink milk.
Most individuals cease to produce lactase after weaning, typically around the age of five, only some human populations develop and pass on the genetic mutation which allows for the tolerance of lactose otherwise known as lactase persistence. Lactase persistence enables an individual to carry the lactase enzyme which breaks lactose down into more digestible forms of glucose and galactose (Check. E pg. 994). According to Erika Check in her article “How Africa Learned to Love the Cow” most groups which develop this tolerance to lactose happen to be pastoralist or semi-pastoralist groups who rely on herding for survival. Many pastoral cultures reside in sub-Saharan Africa, these include the Zulu, Xhosa, and Swazi people who devote themselves to their Nguni cattle. In addition, most northern Europeans and a number of North African and Arabian populations also retain the ability to digest lactose as adults (Boyd R. & Silk J. pg. 347). The ability to digest lactose as an adult is controlled by a single dominant gene. The discovery of the genetic basis for lactose intolerance was made in the 1970's, however, the nature of the mutation has remained a mystery to anthropologists (Check E. pg. 994).
These types of genetic changes show us how evolution makes changes within the human population that increase the chances of survival. In this particular instance evolution has allowed the survival of adult humans during times of drought or when water is not so easily available to them, thus the ability to digest fresh milk is...

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