Dairy farming might be one of the most important industries in the South West and there might be more than six billion consumers of milk and milk products in the world but for early Europeans, drinking milk was a problem, research has found.
Early Europeans had a problem drinking the milk of cows and goats for some 5,000 years after the introduction of farming, a study has revealed.
It took at least that long for their genes to evolve until they were no longer intolerant to lactose, the natural sugar in mammalian milk.
Scientists looked at ancient DNA exracted from 13 individuals buried at archaeological sites in the Great Hungarian Plain – a region known to have been at the crossroads of cultural change in European prehistory.
The samples were taken from the petrus bone, a hard part of the skull protecting the inner ear, and dated from 5,700 BC to 800 BC.
Lead researcher Professor Ron Pinhasi, from University College Dublin’s Earth Institute, said: “Our findings show progression towards lighter skin pigmentation as hunter and gatherers and non-local farmers intermarried, but surprisingly no presence of increased lactose persistence or tolerance to lactose.
“This means that these ancient Europeans would have had domesticated animals like cows, goats and sheep, but they would not yet have genetically developed a tolerance for drinking large quantities of milk from mammals.”
The findings appear in the online edition of the journal Nature Communications.
Source: Western Morning News