December 3, 2009 by TMO
Nutrition for mammals
In almost all mammals, milk is fed to infants through breastfeeding, either directly or by expressing the milk to be stored and consumed later. Some cultures, historically or currently, continue to use breast milk to feed their children until they are 7 years old.
Food product for humans
In many cultures of the world, especially the Western world, humans continue to consume milk beyond infancy, using the milk of other animals (especially cattle, goats and sheep) as a food product. For millennia, cowâ€™s milk has been processed into dairy products such as cream, butter, yogurt, kefir, ice cream, and especially the more durable and easily transportable product, cheese. Modern industrial processes produce casein, whey protein, lactose, condensed milk, powdered milk, and many other food-additive and industrial products.
Humans are an exception in the natural world for consuming milk past infancy, despite the fact that more than 75% of adult humans are lactose intolerant, a characteristic that is more prevalent among individuals of African or Asian descent. The sugar lactose is found only in milk, forsythia flowers, and a few tropical shrubs. The enzyme needed to digest lactose, lactase, reaches its highest levels in the small intestines after birth and then begins a slow decline unless milk is consumed regularly. On the other hand, those groups that do continue to tolerate milk often have exercised great creativity in using the milk of domesticated ungulates, not only of cattle, but also sheep, goats, yaks, water buffalo, horses, and camels. The largest producer and consumer of cattle and buffalo milk in the world is India.