Scientists believe that modern Europeans share a number of genes involved in the build-up of certain types of fat with Neanderthals.
An international team of researchers led by Philipp Khaitovich show that DNA sequences shared between modern humans and Neanderthals are specifically enriched in genes involved in the metabolic breakdown of lipids.
This sharing of genes is seen mainly in contemporary humans of European descent and may have given a selective advantage to the individuals with the Neanderthal variants, media reports said.
These ancient genes might have helped Europeans adapt better to colder climates, giving them an evolutionary advantage.
Neanderthals and modern humans are thought to have co-existed for thousands of years and interbred, meaning Europeans now have roughly 2 per cent Neanderthal DNA.