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article imageFirst Europeans were lactose intolerant

By Tim Sandle     Oct 25, 2014 in Science
New research reveals that 5,000 years after agricultural practices spread across Neolithic Europe, human populations remained unable to digest sugars from the milk of mammals.
By studying ancient DNA extracted from skulls that dated from 5,700 BCE to 800 BCE, scientists based at University College Dublin have found that ancient Europeans carried the genes for lactose intolerance. This is despite agricultural practices being common during this period and the cultural change that led to humans consuming animal products, including drinking milk.
The objective of the research was to highlight how it is often that genetic changes lag behind cultural shifts. Commenting on the study, lead author Daniel Bradley told The Washington Post: "The genomes do seem to shift as new technologies come about. You can’t look at this and think that farming and metallurgy are technologies that come into the culture by osmosis. They come with people. Genomes and technology migrate together."
Today, most babies are born with the ability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. However, there are a proportion who are not. The condition is known as lactose intolerance. This is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and to a lesser extent dairy products.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications, in a study called "Genome flux and stasis in a five millennium transect of European prehistory."
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