Like milk and cheese? How lactose tolerance spread through Europe 4,000 years ago

istock
Credit: iStock

The human ability to digest the milk sugar lactose after infancy spread throughout Central Europe in only a few thousand years. This is the conclusion reached by an international research team led by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The researchers analyzed genetic material from the bones of individuals who had fallen in a conflict around 1200 B.C. on the banks of the Tollense, a river in the present-day German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and reported their findings in Current Biology recently.

The researchers found that only around one in eight of the assumed warriors had a gene variant that enabled them to break down the lactose in milk. “Of the present-day population living in this same area, around 90 percent have this lactase persistence,” explained population geneticist Professor Joachim Burger.

Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.

“The only way to explain this difference between these Bronze Age people and those of today is very strong natural selection,” emphasized biologist Professor Daniel Wegmann of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, who also played a leading role in the study. “We conclude that over the past 3,000 years, lactase-persistent individuals had more children or, alternatively, those children had better chances of survival than those without this trait.” The researchers calculate a remarkable selective advantage: “In each generation lactase-persistent individuals have a six percent greater chance of surviving to reproductive age than non-lactase-persistent individuals,” added Professor Joachim Burger.

Read the original post

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Infographic: The evolutionary history of the COVID-19 coronavirus

Infographic: The evolutionary history of the COVID-19 coronavirus

Reuters analysed over 185,000 genome samples from the Global Initiative on Sharing All influenza Data (GISAID), the largest database of ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend