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Abstract

Recent research on the relationship between osteoporosis and lactase persistence has revealed that these two factors are positively correlated. There is existing evidence that shows the domestication of cattle was a selective force for the lactase persistence allele. We hypothesize that this genetic change caused a shift in the ancestral physiological mechanism for calcium homeostasis, resulting in a derived calcium homeostasis. Consequently, individuals with this derived calcium homeostasis are more susceptible to degenerative bone diseases, such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a topic of major health concern in the United States, considering that it is responsible for more hospital stays for women aged 45 or older than any other disease in America. Geriatric populations are the demographic most heavily affected by osteoporosis—particularly postmenopausal women. Research has also indicated that roughly 20 percent of elderly patients die within the first year of a hip fracture and less than 50 percent return to their previous lifestyle. The health concerns associated with osteoporosis along with the expensive costs of treatment place a priority on alternative ways to treat and prevent this disease. We review the development of lactase persistence along with important biological molecules involved in calcium homeostasis. We also discuss the physiology behind the ancestral calcium homeostasis and the derived calcium homeostasis, as well as potential paths for further research.

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