It’s no secret that beer and cheese go hand in hand, but a new study published this Wednesday in the journal Current Biology reveals how deep his roots are in Europe, where workers in a prehistoric salt mine in present-day Austria were already drinking beer and eating blue cheese 2,700 years ago.
The research authors analyzed different old stool samples (paleo-feces) dating from the Bronze Age to the Baroque period (18th century AD) found in the Hallstatt Mine in the Austrian Alps. This allowed reconstructing the diet of the population that inhabited that region and obtaining information about the ancient composition of your gut microbiome.
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In an Iron Age sample, the results revealed abundant DNA from ‘Penicillium roqueforti‘ and ‘Saccharomyces cerevisiae‘, two species of mushrooms that are used in the production of blue cheese and beer, respectively.
Similarities with contemporary populations
“It appears that the Hallstatt miners intentionally applied fermentation technologies of foods with microorganisms that are still used today in the food industry “, said study lead author Frank Maixner from the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies (Italy). These findings offer the first molecular evidence for the production and consumption of blue cheese and beer 2,700 years ago, in Iron Age Europe, he added.
In addition, paleo-feces analyzes identified bran and glumes of cereals as the most prevalent plant components. That fibrous, carb-rich diet was supplemented with proteins of legumes and occasionally with fruits, nuts or products of animal origin.
The scientists also observed that the structures of the gut microbiome of the ancient Hallstatt miners were similar to those of some contemporary populations, whose diets also consist mainly of unprocessed foods, fresh fruits and vegetables. This suggests a relatively recent change in the gut microbiome of the western population modern as eating habits and lifestyle changed.
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