Endocrine Abstracts (2012) 28 S7.1

The origins and evolution of lactase persistence

Mark Thomas


Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


Most Europeans take drinking milk for granted; it’s the everyday consumption of an everyday drink. But for most adult humans, indeed, for most adult mammals, milk is very far from an everyday drink. Milk is something that we have specifically evolved to be able to consume in the relatively recent past. The ability to digest the sugar in milk is called Lactase Persistence and Darwin’s engine of evolutionary change, natural selection, has probably worked harder on this trait than on any other biological characteristic of Europeans in the last 10,000 years. In this presentation we will see how Genetics, Archaeology, Anthropology, Physiology, ancient DNA and computer simulations can be combined to understand where, when and how Lactase persistence co-evolved with the culture of dairying in Europeans.

Declaration of interest: There is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research reported.

Funding: No specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sector.

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