Have Europeans evolved a tolerance for beer?

I thought I read in an issue of Scientific American that Europeans have evolved a tolerance for alcohol over thousands of years of drinking. This seems to go along with the notion that there are is a lot of alcoholism among American Indians who lack this tolerance. But now I’m wondering if this isn’t just a racial stereotype?

The University of Alberta in Edmonton did a study of this and established that aboriginals metabolized alcohol slower than people of European descent. Europeans always had a lot more grain in their diet and could handle the specific carbohydrates better. The North American aboriginals had always obtained most of their carbohydrates from animal fat.
Naturally, the Politically Correct Party shit down their legs with rage but it’s not much different from the established fact that a large proportion of people of Chinese descent have digestive problems with dairy products.

Okay, you can help me here. I was told by a Japanese gentleman that his traditional diet did not have much (if any)dairy in it.
His observation was that babies have the ability to break down milk products because milk was “baby food.” After Japanese babies are weaned, they start the traditional diet and eventually lose the ability to break down the products in milk.
He believed Westerners, who continue to drink milk after infancy keep the digestive ability to break down milk and milk products.
Is there evidence to back up his belief?

Well, Asians as a whole tend to be lactose-intolerant. In fact, AFAIK, lactose tolerance is only very common among people of European descent. But I think it is more of a genetic thing than a gradual individual adaptation.

This is all IIRC, so lemme look this up.

Back off, man. I’m a scientist.

Lactose Intolerance

There are also other risk factors that lead to lactase deficiency.

Back off, man. I’m a scientist.

I’m having trouble finding that SciAm article on their site, but I remember that the author pointed out that until very recently, most fresh water was anything but fresh–or healthy.

Eastern and Western society pursued two separate paths in order to create safe drinking water. Westerners used fermentation to purify water while the Chinese hit on the idea of tea, which is boiled. As a result, the author contended, Westerners developed more and better enzymes for breaking down alchohol.

I recall noticing a very serious gap in the logic of that article. It never addressed the Americas or the fact that the indigenous peoples of North America neither boiled their water nor drank alchoholic beverages prior to European contact. Nevertheless, American Indians seem to have had an enormous tolerance for alchohol, which would appear to blunt the argument somewhat.

Oops. I’m not trying to contradict you, Jake, but the way I learned it was that Indians actually have a higher tolerance for alchohol, which means they can drink more and more often which in turn leads to alchoholism. Conversely, the peoples of far east Asia have a very low tolerance for alchohol, and as a result their rates of alchoholism are far lower. Hope I haven’t muddied the waters, here.

Makes sense to me, in view of my personal experience. I drank milk without difficulty until age ~25 - well beyond my baby years, at least chronologically. I then went for ~10 years almost without dairy products - no milk, no cheese, very occasional yogurt. Now that I’ve started back up with dairy, it is, shall we say…no longer my close personal friend. Cheese gives me terrible (or at least terribly odiferous) gas, as does butter. I have to drink Lactaid (lactose-free) milk. I DO seem to be improving slightly; maybe my body is figuring out that it needs to spend energy making lactase again, or maybe that perception is just my wishful thinking. My wife (Han Chinese) reacts almost the same as do I; in her case, she had no trouble with human milk as an infant, then stopped milk once she could take a solid diet.

I always assumed the explanation was basically what your Japanese friend proposed - when you drop something from your diet for a long enough period, your digestion stops preparing to handle it, at least as a matter of course. I have met people who say the same thing about (fatty) red meat after enough time without it - going back to it makes them feel logy and uncomfortable.

As for the OP - and specifically Sofa King’s

  • I can only say that I never really noticed that. It may be true - I’d want to see the statistics, but I admit the problem may be with my powers of observation - but in general: the Chinese have made fermented drinks of many types for millennia, and that technology spread to their neighbors long ago; alcohol consumption and alcoholism is accepted almost without comment in the popular literature I am familiar with (both ancient novels and period movies); some Chinese/East Asians DO have an “allergic reaction” to one of the breakdown products of alcohol, and many of the “sufferers” do avoid its consumption, but as far as I can tell some of those people nonetheless become alcoholics; in my experience drinking is not uncommon in China, and from what I hear it is also so in Japan.

On the other hand, most of the teetotallers I know are Chinese, so maybe I need to be more observant. There IS a difference between being a consumer of alcohol and being alcoholic…