Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Species Wide Change in Diet

     What I found particularly interesting in this week's readings was the idea that humans are really not that old.  We've essentially gone from being hunter-gatherers to sedentary desk workers is a blink of an eye. Evolution has already caught up with our diets once by making our brains bigger and guts smaller.  What will the next step be?
     Obesity and diabetes have become the new epidemics of our time and are mostly due to our sedentary lifestyles and diets high in fat and carbohydrates. From my experience working in hospitals, it is almost a safe assumption that a given hospital patient is diabetic.  Because these conditions have become such major issues, many fad diets have gained popularity.  People are obsessed with losing weight.  Two recently popular weight-loss methods are hot yoga and Atkins.  Hot yoga is an intense yoga work-out in a 105-degree-Fahrenheit environment, intended to help participants sweat off the weight.  It causes severe dehydration in exchange for the loss of five pounds in one session. Many people who try the Atkins diet, a low-carbohydrate, high-protein weight-loss diet, generally do not understand that excessive amounts of red meat can lead to increased risks of heart disease and cancer.
     People have been fascinated with ancient bones and what they can tell us about the lifestyles of our ancestors.  We know that a lot of Northern Europeans drank milk and developed the ability to digest lactose into their adult years, as opposed to other mammals who lose the ability in late infancy.  On the other hand, most other cultures did not develop this ability, at least to the same extent as Northern Europeans.  Drinking milk is clearly beneficial to bone development and calcium absorption, even if the exact reasons cannot be pinpointed.  While there are milk programs in schools, adults often drink soda instead, which robs their bodies of calcium.  As a whole, humans need to learn to eat healthier and exercise more, because our lifestyles are changing too quickly for nature to fully catch up.


  1. Sarah's summary of the reading for this week is pretty accurate. However, what the reading fails to do is to take into account the other part of the world that is plagued by very different health concerns. Although there is an overwhelming amount of "westernization", there are still many countries that do not recognize our superficial obsession with losing weight along with other more serious health concerns like obesity or diabetes.
    The one issue with Sarah's post is the idea of the unification behind these health problems. While it is true that American's and the rest of the Western world eat a considerably more unhealthy diet of fats and carbs, many other countries are still facing food shortages. As we mentioned at the end of class on Monday, the subjects of study in science are primarily individuals who fulfill the WEIRD requirement (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic). This neglects a particularly large and important part of the rest of the world and subjects it to the continuation of its health problems with no scientific help.
    I found it interesting that Sarah included to popular weight loss methods (hot yoga, and Atkins). As a member of a sorority, I constantly hear of new fad diets that girls use to try and lose weight. Everything from a cabbage soup diet to juice cleanses are being used and they usually do more damage than good. Sarah makes an excellent point when she says that instead of taking these drastic measures to lose weight we need to incorporate more healthy foods and exercise into our life. As Professor Clancy mentioned in class, we cannot truly say were the human race is “headed” in terms of our evolution. Because of this we must give our bodies the foods it needs rather than what it wants.

  2. I used to do hot yoga! It is pretty awesome if you can make it through the 1.5 hour class without fainting. Though I never really viewed it as a means of weight loss (all you’re really losing is water weight), it made me realize how much of a fad-obsessed nation we are. Being really interested in diet and nutrition, I am constantly reading health magazines and articles with breaking headlines like “top 10 superfoods you MUST eat!” and “eat more of this, less of that” Though the constant new finds are entertaining, I frequently wonder how many of the studies are hyped up. If you’re already leading a relatively healthy lifestyle, do the minor tweaks here and there really make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Maybe they do, but chances are if you’re debating whether to eat broccoli cooked or raw for nutrition’s sake, your body probably isn’t going to hate you either way.
    I wholeheartedly agree that excessive energy is invested in minor health-related ideas that have been blown out of proportion. In my opinion, the “suspicious” hormones in milk receive too much scrutiny from the media and public. When compared to heart disease, diabetes, and lung cancer, it seems as if we should hardly be worrying about a widely accepted drink that has not been directly correlated with a health-risk. There are countless studies that yield differing results, making the whole milk craze very speculative. Though I do think it is important to stress the idea of consumption in moderation, encouraging individuals to abandon milk on grounds of unclear studies is an absurd idea. Furthermore, the public tends to take news like this the wrong way, similar to many diets derived from generalizations. Like as mentioned in chapter 2, the Paleolithic diet known today is only very loosely based on what those of the Paleolithic era actually consumed. Rather, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what they ate, as variation existed among people of differing tribes, location, and culture. If one were to come up with a “2013 diet”, it would nearly be impossible. Who are we to say that people of the Paleolithic could have been summed up so simply?