Tag Archives: lactose intolerance

Got Milk?

This refers to an ad campaign in the U.S. showing various celebrities (and at least in one case, the Mona Lisa) with white “mustaches” from drinking milk. With gusto, you assume.
I am a milk freak and have been since I was a child. Had I been permitted to, I would have drunk (drank? drunken? drinked? Making it up as I go along here) milk with every meal and every snack. But I was only allowed to drink milk at breakfast. For lunch and dinner, my choices were sweetened iced tea and sweetened iced tea. For snacks, I could have Coca-Cola.
I still find this puzzling. My mother was a registered nurse and had to know that milk is much healthier than tea or Coke. The only thing I can come up with to explain it is that milk was more expensive.
I wasn’t permitted to drink coffee at all, ever, but that was mainly because my mother didn’t like it and we never had it in the house. She made it for my father, but once he moved out, that was the end of coffee in our house.
So I developed an addiction to Coca-Cola. My first semester in college, one day I realized I was drinking 6 Cokes a day. So, I just stopped. Don’t ask me how I managed to do that.
Then I developed an addiction to coffee. With cream and sugar. The only time I’d tasted it (from my father’s cup), it was black. It dawned on me that I didn’t live at home anymore so I could drink anything I liked! One day I was at work, and realized that I was using like 4 packets of sugar for a 6-ounce Styrofoam cup of coffee. I was making syrup. So I just stopped that too.
I wasn’t addicted to Cokes or coffee, I was addicted to sugar. I still drink coffee…two cups every morning, black…but almost no sodas at all. I might drink half a Coca-Cola once a year. The carbonation is strangely refreshing. I drink ginger ale about that often.
Back to milk. I still love it and drink it at every meal, unless I have to try to act elegant and drink wine instead. But it turns out, I’m a mutant. Only 70% of the world’s population continues to produce the enzyme lactase after childhood, and it’s required in order to digest milk, whether it comes from your mother or from a cow or a goat or a fill-in-the-blank. It also turns out that people with extreme Northern European ancestry (Scandinavia, the British Isles) are most likely to continue to produce lactase (90% probability). People of African or Asian descent have only a 10% probability.
I knew about lactose intolerance in cats, which I learned the hard way. I once rescued this little feral kitten from the streets of New Orleans (“Erin”), who wasn’t weaned and didn’t know how to eat solid food. So I added milk. He snarfed it up. Once he began eating the solid food, I quit adding milk. Later on, I decided to give him milk as a treat and he was the very definition of sudden projectile vomiting. It was very impressive. Halfway across the room.
But it isn’t just cats…it’s all mammals. I can think of a lot of good evolutionary reasons for this. For one thing, it encourages the baby mammals to become independent and start eating other things, and if necessary, to go out and hunt for them. (Mom will not always be there.) It lets the mother rest and build up reserves for the next baby.
I’d like to mention that I had another cat who got sick and I fed her baby food meats mixed with rice, on the advice of the vet. While I’ve never tried canned or dry cat food, baby food veal is really yummy stuff. I hope PETA isn’t reading.
But lucky me! I can still drink milk and eat ice cream to my heart’s content.