Before there was a war on wheat and a war on sugar, there was a war on dairy products. Nutritionists need science insight the most and are least likely to want it, they instead listen to Yogic flying instructors, actresses and Food Babes at conferences embracing the latest fad.

The Finns are immune to the trends - they are huge milk drinkers, perhaps the most in the world, but the debate was always when it happened. Conditions can be trying for residents today, they sure were not great for prehistoric man in the harsh environment of the far north, but new techniques that analyzed residents preserved in fragments of ancient pots have traced their love of milk back to 2,500 B.C.

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Dairy at 60 degrees north of the equator

You don't think of Alaska or Siberia as being dairy hotbeds but that is the same latitude as the discovery of Finnish milk. The researchers analyzed the ancient pots and also modern-day Finnish peoples' ability to digest milk into adulthood. By comparing the residues found in the walls of cooking pots from two separate eras and cultures, dating to circa 3900 BC to 3300 BC and circa 2500 BC, it was evident that the more recent pottery fragments showed evidence of milk fats.

This coincided with the transition from a culture of hunting and fishing – relying mainly on marine foods - to the arrival of 'Corded Ware' settlements which we now know saw the introduction of animal domestication.

Lead author Dr. Lucy Cramp, from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University, said, "This is remarkable evidence which proves that four and a half thousand years ago, Stone Age people must have been foddering and sheltering domesticated animals over harsh winters, in conditions that even nowadays we would find challenging."

The results also drew a connection between the 'Corded Ware' farming settlers - who were likely to have been genetically different to the hunting and fishing communities - and modern day Finns.

Fellow researcher Dr. Volker Heyd added, "Our results show a clear link between an incoming pre-historic population, milk drinking and the ability to digest milk in adulthood still visible in the genetic distribution of modern Finland, which remains one of the highest consumers of dairy products in the world."

Professor Richard Evershed, from the School of Chemistry said, "It never ceases to amaze me that these sensitive chemical signatures of changing human life survive in the archaeological record for thousands of years. And it leaves one pondering what was motivating the people to move into these challenging regions?"

Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Source: University of Bristol