The Myth of Lactose Tolerance

The popsci rags like to push a lot of junk science.  Apparently this phenomenon has even taken root among white supremacist communities (I guess white supremacy is when you tacitly admit your lactase inferiority to Pakistanis, Arabs, and Black Africans from the Sahel)

Anyway, here are the three main points of interest:

1) Only testing the European alleles.  Looking for a lactase allele in Europe, and then extrapolating that to the rest of the world, is a bit like finding the light skin mutation in Japan, and then saying that Germans must be Black because they lack it.  Admittedly this has improved a little bit in recent years with the study of African and Arab-specific alleles, but

2) Sampling bias in the tests.  Even if you look at the idiotproof lactose digestion blood tests, you’ll see that there is massive sampling bias.  For one, non-europeans are atrociously undersampled; I’m counting over 40 samples for Europe and only 4 or 5 for any other equigeographic region.  Secondly, even within Europe, the lactose intolerant populations are undersampled.  There are plenty of samples in the British isles and central Europe, where tolerance is high; but very few samples in the Balkans, Slavic, and Uralic lands, where tolerance is much lower.  This overestimates European lactose tolerance.

3) Lactose tolerance isn’t even a real term in the first place.  Japanese people, who are inarguably very unable to digest lactose, are 80-90% lactose tolerant. That’s right, when given 1 to 2 standard glasses of milk, the vast majority of Japanese indicate no ill gastrointestinal effects.  If the Japanese are okay with milk, I guarantee that your ethnic group is also, whatever that may be.

The third point is evident from basic nutritional science, which I guess the average person has no knowledge of these days.  Sugars that don’t get digested get broken down by bacteria.  Sometimes, this can cause gas, usually not, when the individual has a healthy microbiome.  100% of whites are unable to digest cellulose, which is a sugar found in all plant foods.  If we used popular logic, all whites should thus become carnivores.

So all ethnic groups are lactose tolerant, but only a few (NW Indians, Arabs, NW Europeans, and various African groups) are lactase persistent.  So what exactly is lactase persistence, and why does it matter?

Lactase persistence is important because it allows you to unlock more calories.  In standard cow’s milk, lactose contains 33% of the total calories, meaning that an LP person would access 50% more calories than a LNP individual.

Further supporting this is the genetic analysis of over 20 Yamnaya Caspian steppe males.  These guys were totally lacking the “Indoeuropean” LP allele, and thus could not digest lactose.

“But wait, couldn’t they have had different unknown LP alleles too?”, you might ask.  The answer is no, because Yamnaya people contributed ancestry to modern Europeans.  If the Yamnaya had an LP allele, it would have made it into modern Europeans and undergone selection, and we would know about it today.  But that didn’t happen.

In the Indoeuropean Yamnaya steppe times, population densities were a lot lower, and thus access to calories was considerably higher; this meant that people were generally less wanting for basic sustenance.  This is further supported by the fact that Yamnaya men had some of the tallest genetic height potentials known, taller than modern north Europeans.  This indicates that they were not starved for calories.

The evolution of lactose digestion was likely mostly due to starvation conditions.  There is also a slight trend of obesity with lactase persistence; the Brits are the most lactose digestive in Europe, and they are also some of the fattest.  It makes sense intuitively that a population that would need to digest the smatter of calories in lactose would also evolve thriftier genes to hold onto calories.

The Racial glossary: A semi-consistent terminology of race.

This is an outline of terms I use, that I follow because they are objectively descriptive (or at least attempt to be).

Indigenous – A context dependent word, which means “having evolved and thrived in a land over some timespan”.  This timespan is always at least several thousand years, and ALWAYS before the racial mixing of bronze age migrants, sometimes even earlier.  IE: Germans are not indigenous to Germany, and Punjabis are not indigenous to Punjab.  The indigenous occupants of both (WHG in the case of Germany, and an indigenous Indian for Punjab) have been long mixed out of their “pure” forms, for at least 5000 years now.

Supergroup – A group of related groups.  For example, Bantu Africans and San Bushmen form an African supergroup; they are highly distinct races, but are still more related to each other than to anything else on earth.  A supergroup can be composed of other supergroups, and the difference is largely a matter of degree of genetic cohesiveness.

Oceanian – People indigenous to Oceania, including Australia, Papua, Melanesia, and with some extension into Indonesia.  A supergroup, since Papuan and Melanesian are genetically pretty far apart and can be considered separate at high genetic resolution.

SEAsian (will come up with a better term for this) – Peoples indigenous to Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines.

MidAsian (better term needed for this) – People indigenous to Middle Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan.

Siberian – can be considered a supergroup of Siberians.  However, may also refer to Yakutian/Nganassan-like people, who are very distinct from Koryaks.

Arctic – Far East Siberians, mainly Koryaks.

Indian – Peoples indigenous to the Indian continent, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

Middle Eastern – A supergroup of the Middle East, consisting of the Levantine, Iranian, and Red Sea races.
Levantine – indigenous people of the Levant.
Iranian – indigenous people of Iran and the Caucasus.
Red Sea – indigenous people of the Red Sea, who contributed large swathes of ancestry to both East Africans and Gulf Arabs.

European – indigenous people of Europe.  Best exemplified by WHG foragers.

African – A supergroup
Bantu – West Africans who conquered the rest of Africa during the Bantu expansions.
Paleoafricans – South Africans, exemplified by San and Kalahari Bushmen.

East Eurasian – a large supergroup containing SEAsians, Middle Asians, Siberians, Arctics

West Eurasian – a large supergroup containing Middle Easterners and Europeans.

South Eurasian – a supergroup mostly composed of Indians, among a few others.

Mongoloid – A term having nothing to do with genetics, which describes a “Mongoloid” morphology.  Traits include wide jaws, wide cheekbones, epicanthal folds, high canthal tilt, flatter occipital bun, higher sitting heights, and thymal persistence (immunity), among others.  Mongoloid features are the most progressive, as they appear the latest in the fossil record.

Caucasoid – A term describing nothing about genetics, describing a “Caucasoid” morphology.  Traits include a narrower jaw/cheekbones, round larger eyes, protuberant occipital bun, shorter torso:leg ratio, thymal atrophy, among others.  Caucasoid features are more primitive than Mongoloid ones, as they appear earlier in the fossil record, but still later than Negroid/Australoid ones.

Negroid/Australoid: genetically irrelevant terms used to describe the morphology of African and Oceanian people, respectively.

modern – used to signify the population of a given area that existed in “modern” pre-columbian times, roughly 1500 AD.  Most of these populations were and still are racially mixed, IE: modern Europeans, Indians, MidAsians, etc.  Virtually all post bronze-age populations are mixed in this way, simply because of population logistics. falsely singles out the “European” roots of Native Americans.

Native Americans are a mix of Ancient North Eurasian (ANE) and something East Eurasian.

The jury on ANE genetic affinities is still very much up to debate.  The only thing known for certain is that they are not majority East Eurasian, meaning they share very little affinity with Middle Asians (Japan/Korean-like), or Southeast Asians (Thai/Indonesian-like).

However, this does not exclude Indians, and in fact, every k analysis done so far shows Mal’ta boy as being substantially Indian in origin.  The estimates vary from ~15 – 33% off the top of my head.

It also does not exclude Siberians and Americans.  ANE shows significant admixture from modern Siberians, as well as American-specific admixture.

Moreover, the R haplogroup itself likely arrived there with the Indian-like males, as it finds its highest basal diversity in India.  (with P, direct ancestor of R, having its highest basal diversity in nearby Southeast Asia).

It was always thought that European-like people inhabited much of Siberia in the paleolithic days, by virtue of the similar venus figurines and stone tool similarities.

Thus, if the Native Americans have European origins, they also have Indian and Siberian origins out the wazoo.