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Early European Farmers Remained Lactose Intolerant

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DUBLIN, IRELAND—Nuclear DNA analysis of 13 individuals suggests that early farmers in central Europe remained lactose intolerant for more than 5,000 years after they domesticated animals. “Our findings show progression toward lighter skin pigmentation as hunter and gatherers and non-local farmers intermarried, but surprisingly no presence of increased lactose persistence or tolerance to lactose,” announced Ron Pinhasi of University College Dublin. Early farmers probably relied upon fermented cheese and yogurt from their cows, goats, and sheep, rather than drinking their hard-to-digest raw milk. “Our results also imply that the great changes in prehistoric technology including the adoption of farming, followed by the first use of the hard metals, bronze and then iron, were each associated with the substantial influx of new people,” added Dan Bradley of Trinity College Dublin. The DNA samples were obtained from the inner ear region of the petrous bone in the skull, which is very dense and well protected from contamination and damage. To read more about the prehistoric genetic history of Europe, see "Genetic Study Reveals Third Group of European Ancestors."

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