According to scientists in Oslo, the English may have only grown to develop pale skin in the past 5,500 years.
A sudden change of diet around this time, attributed to the move away from hunter-gathering into agriculture, is believed to have led to a major shift in skin tone in order to atone for the lack of Vitamin D. Food which is farmed is notably lacking in the vitamin; but the human body can create its own vitamin D from sunlight, with paler skin working best for the purpose, The Daily Mail reports.
Pale-skinned people are consequently believed to be descended from these farmers who drastically changed their diets when they reduced their hunting. Researchers at the University of Oslo have claimed that dark-skinned ancestors then evolved paler skin to overcome the problem.
People with pale skin may be descended from Europeans who dramatically changed their diets after switching from hunter-gathering to farming
Scientists at the University of Oslo believe this change in diet may have led to our dark-skinned ancestors evolving paler skin to overcome this problem. The link between Vitamin D and skin colour is not a new idea, with previous studies reporting that as generations moved farther from the equator their tone gradually lightened in order to generate more Vitamin D. The new findings suggest that the newer diets were less rich in vitamins.
Scandinavian people in particular are thought to have evolved in such a way to maximise the benefit of sunlight according to this latest research. It confirms that higher latitudes and colder climates are major contributors to skin lightening.
In a recent study, almost half of African women were found to be Vitamin D deficient.