Are you of the opinion that it’s always better with cheddar? Do you go gaga for gouda? Then you have you have the perseverance of ancient European settlers to thank, because according to a new study, despite being lactose intolerant for thousands of years, these hardy souls refused to cut the cheese.
The earliest evidence of cheesemaking, according to this writeup from the Washington Post, was over 7,000 years ago, so conventional wisdom suggested humans developed lactose tolerance soon after. But the new study, published earlier this week in Nature Communications, found that by analyzing the genetic information of 13 ancient humans who lived on the Great Hungarian Plain, the genetic change likely occurred approximately 4,000 years later, despite a conspicuous lack of Lactaid during the Neolithic era.
David Bradley, co-author of the study and professor at Trinity College Dublin, suggests that high percentages of lactose tolerance in places like Ireland suggest some early cultures depended on dairy for sustenance instead of as a garnish on a medium-rare burger.
“Ireland is the place in the world with the highest concentration of lactose tolerance,” Bradley said, “and undoubtedly that’s to do with a heavy reliance on drinking unprocessed milk in pre-history, and a culture focused on dairying.”
So thanks to our ancestors, we eat cheese like there’s no tomorrow. But not to worry: According to a panel of experts, cheese has some pretty impressive health benefits. Be sure to remember that when you’re picking where to go out to eat tonight.