A new study has shown that the human body might have been tuned to processing alcohol 10 million years ago. Could this imply that humans have been consuming alcohol for millenniums now?
A new study having revealed astonishing proof suggests that humans have been consuming alcohol for much longer than it was previously thought. Initially, it was believed that the beverage was first brewed around 9 000 years ago in Northern China by villagers. However, imposing evidence generated from the work of US scientists shows that it was drunk 10 million years ago. The researchers attempted to explain their results by suggesting that early ancestors probably picked up fermented fruits lying on the ground, leading to the evolution of their bodies to process ethanol.
Alcohol is broken down in the body by the enzyme ADH4. Scientists previously believed that this enzyme appeared only after early farmers produced alcohol for the first time. To their surprise, they found that ADH4 existed since 10 million years ago, at the end of the Miocene era.
Commenting on the unexpected discovery, Professor Matthew Carrigan stated:
“This transition implies the genomes of modern human, chimpanzee and gorilla began adapting at least 10 million years ago to dietary ethanol present in fermenting fruit. This conclusion contrasts with the relatively short amount of time – about 9,000 years – since fermentative technology enabled humans to consume beverages with higher ethanol content than fruit fermenting in the wild. Our ape ancestors gained a digestive enzyme capable of metabolizing ethanol near the time they began using the forest floor about 10 million years ago. Because fruit collected from the forest floor is expected to contain higher concentrations of fermenting yeast and ethanol than similar fruits hanging on trees this transition may also be the first time our ancestors were exposed to – and adapted to – substantial amounts of dietary ethanol.”
According to the researchers, any primate not able to digest the fermented fruits would have met with death before transmitting the gene, while those who had the capacity to do so survived and passed on the gene for the expression of the enzyme to their offspring.
Also, supporting the findings are archaeologists who claim that the production of alcoholic drinks dates back to the prehistoric time when wheat, rice and corn were cultivated for the very purpose of making alcohol.