Lactose Intolerance has Ancient Roots


The most tolerant milk drinkers, those of Northern European decent, may be the result of dairy farming adaptations.  While just 5 to 15% of today’s Northern European population is lactose intolerant (depending on the stats viewed), it is possible that all of their ancestors from millenniums past were.

Scientists from the University College London and Mainz University in Germany, looked for the gene that produces the lactase enzyme in Neolithic skeletons dating between 5480BC and 5000BC.  The lactase gene was absent from their DNA, suggesting that these early Europeans were lactose intolerant.

Though some cheese fans are hoping for a “survival of the fittest” argument, in which a small group of milk tolerant individuals emerged as the dominant population, we have yet to see statistics of milk consumers outliving dairy-free ones.  On the contrary, the scientists hypothesize that it was a gene adaptation that arose after the development and expansion of dairy farming. 

The study is to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

For more information on Lactose Intolerance, visit our Health section.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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