This conversation was led by Christina Warinner (http://christinawarinner.com) (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University; Group Leader of Microbiome Sciences, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; University Professor of Biological Sciences, Friedrich Schiller University), Irina Velsko (Postdoctoral Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), and Alexander Hübner (Postdoctoral Researcher, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology).
Human diet has radically changed since the emergence of our genus approximately 2 million years ago. Over that period, gene duplications related to digestion – such as amylase copy number – have vastly expanded, and genetic variants – such as lactase persistence (LP) – are among the genomic features under highest selection in the human genome. Although the evolutionary dynamics behind some of these changes are partly known, their microbial correlates within the human microbiome are less explored. Here we discuss human adaptations to two carbohydrates, amylose and lactose, and show that far from being simple, they involve a complex interplay between the host genome and microbiome. Using direct molecular evidence from the archaeological and paleoanthropological record, we discuss human dietary evolution and argue that only by investigating the host genome and microbiome in tandem can our evolution, biology, and health be fully understood.
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