Sunday, April 08, 2007

To get gas is glorious!   posted by Razib @ 4/08/2007 08:49:00 PM

A friend pointed to this article in The Economist, China's dairy industry, which chronicles the recent problem of oversupply. Apparently, due to a recent fad amongst the urban middle class to drink milk & milk products many Chinese farmers began to buy cows to produce milk. The problem is that supply quickly outstripped the demand, which you can see is leveling off.

Does this surprise? It shouldn't. The Chinese are notoriously lactose intolerant. This doesn't mean that they explode when drinking milk, rather, large quantities of lactose in the digestive systems of those without the functioning lactose enzyme are undigested, and, can result in the emergence of a set of intestinal flora which result in gas, irritable bowel syndrome and at the extreme, diarrhea. Though none of these are life threatening in a modern context, they are not the recipe which suggests possible repeat customers. I was especially struck by this statement: "Officials are not giving up. To the industry's delight, the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, visited a dairy farm last year and said his dream was that all Chinese drink half a litre of milk a day, especially schoolchildren." Now, one study reported that 20% of Japanese adults exhibited physiological response of lactose intolerance when about 7 ounces of milk were ingested. Half a liter is closer to 17 ounces (yes, I know that Japanese and Chinese are different, but not on this phenotype).

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