Drinking milk made ancient humans taller and heavier, a study has found.

The research found that higher milk consumption for populations from between 2,000 and 7,000 years ago led to an increase in human sizes.

The University of Western Ontario led the study and a researcher from Queen's University in Belfast (QUB), Dr Eoin Parkinson, provided data on human skeletons from archaeological sites spread over 25,000 years.

Body stature and mass for 3,507 ancient human skeletons from 366 different archaeological sites were analysed as part of the work.

While these skeletons came from predominantly European sites due to there being historically more archaeological exploration on the continent, the researchers said that the data set was still sufficient to examine human body variation over time and geographic location.


The study also found that ancient milk consumption has a direct impact on the existence of human lactose intolerance in Europe today.

Humans from regions with higher levels of milk consumption were found to have had higher levels of the genes that allow the production of milk digestion enzymes. These enzymes enable humans to digest milk into adulthood.

The University of Western Ontario scientists argued that this suggests that the process of evolution led to the pattern of lactose intolerance seen today, where people in the north of Europe are more lactose tolerant than people in the south of Europe.

Drinking milk allowed humans to become taller and heavier.

QUB researcher Dr Parkinson said: "Through this study, we've found that drinking milk led to increased skeletal growth and taller populations in some parts of the world.

"Everyone probably has memories from their childhood of being told to drink up their milk to help them grow.

"We can almost think of this in the context of our own evolutionary story and we see trends in dairy consumption going back as far as 7,000 years ago having an impact on how people process dairy products today."

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