Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Guts, Evolution, and The Human Diet

Rob Dunn’s article, “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians”, specifically addresses the evolution of the human digestive system in relation to our diets and resulting health, even going so far as to examine the effect of our ancestral bacteria. The article seeks to determine the “right” Paleolithic diet to follow, similar to Turner’s “search for a true human diet”. While Dunn doesn’t seem to doubt that agriculture has led to a decline in health (p. 65), he challenges this notion, saying that our very simple and historically adaptable digestive system has once again adapted to process processed foods. Although Dunn says to take note of recent ancestors, he fails to mention pre-dispositional health circumstances in relation to the “gut”, but then again, he does make a point to focus on the nutritional value of whatever food is consumed.

We are able to counteract the decline in health with modern medicine and technology – therefore, it seems that we are trying to return to our ancestral diet (or at least the positive results of it) as an act against our current food-related health crises. Not unlike ancient foragers, the only way to do so is by using the resources readily available to us, it’s just that the resources happen to be mass production and unhealthy ­processing. Even on an individual level, we use the resources most readily available to construct our diet – of course, this is why diets vary across persons who reside in particular regions and cultures. This is a subject that comes up often in my own life – my parents are Filipino immigrants; I was born and raised and live in suburban America; and I lived on my own in the London, England for a short amount of time. In my case, diet is mostly consistent with cultural and environmental factors present during childhood or the “home” state. Additionally, this is as influential as the types of resources available -- home-cooked meals in varying portions vs fast food in large portions vs simple food in small portions – but there is only a small amount of outside influence (such as education, wealth, experience, etc.).

For more information, check out this article from The Economist about the “Caveman’s Curse”.

1 comment:

  1. Can someone please help me send a post? Thank You.