A study of populations around the world has suggested that people have evolved to be smarter and taller than their predecessors.
Those who are born to parents from diverse genetic backgrounds tend to be taller and have sharper thinking skills than others, the University of Edinburgh study found.
Researchers analysed health and genetic information from more than 100 studies carried out around the world. These included details on more than 350,000 people from urban and rural communities.
The team found that greater genetic diversity is linked to increased height. It is also associated with better cognitive skills, as well as higher levels of education.
However, genetic diversity had no effect on factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, which affect a person’s chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and other complex conditions.
The findings suggest that over time, evolution is favouring people with increased stature and sharper thinking skills but does not impact on their propensity for developing a serious illness.
Researcher Jim Wilson said that this study highlights the power of large-scale genetic analyses to uncover fundamental information about our evolutionary history.
Researcher Peter Joshi added that the research answers questions first posed by Darwin as to the benefits of genetic diversity. Their next step will be to hone in on the specific parts of the genome that most benefit from diversity.
The study is published in the journal Nature.