The world is a large and growing place…and, so are its people. The unintentional, but greatly noticeable, shift towards obesity has developed into a growing concern for millions. Particularly in westernized nations, the race to find the “ultimate cure” and one pill to lose weight fast has consumed far too much valuable time and effort of scientists. However, there has been growing support for prevention of obesity emphasizing its importance over finding weak solutions. In order to successfully prevent diseases, it is imperative to fully understand the workings of a healthy individual. With our scope focused on human evolution and disease, the healthiest individuals we can be compared to, are our prehistoric ancestors. By exploring our differences of physical activity and correlated diseases, changes in health and disease risk-factors can be made clear.
Such was the intentions of researchers performing the “Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity” study. I thought the comparison between the world’s countries and indigenous foraging groups was highly appropriate—their culture most strongly reflects that of our ancestors. Starting the study, I anticipated westernized nations to have a lower energy expenditure rate (TEE) than the Hadza hunter-gatherers, thus acting as the main cause of prevalent diseases in more developed countries. It is this assumption that I have been raised upon; experiences from family have demonstrated to me how less energy expenditure results in diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc. To me, the best cure has always been to exercise more and be more active. My interpretation of this study’s results showed just that: “physical activity has important, positive effects on health” (Article). More importantly, the energy expended on activities between foraging groups and westernized nations were similar! Thus, even though the U.S. and Western Europe may “move” less, if they were to move more, the energy expended is the same as in hunter-and-gathering groups. This conclusion begs the question: how much energy expended is enough energy expended? If a similar amount of energy is expended across cultures despite cultural and environmental differences, then the role of human evolution and adaptation is greatly been underestimated.
The evolution of human’s energy expenditure has been subtle but most certainly advantageous. From the study, I have come to learn that the activities foraging societies perform take the same amount of physiological effort as the activities from more developed societies. Granted, these activities I speak of vary from culture to culture, but our bodies have learned to utilize a constant supply of energy. I may be mistaken with an individual’s metabolism, but the human body recognizes the difference in activity rigor; forgers more likely perform rigorous tasks and western nations are more likely to perform less rigorous tasks. Based off the conclusion from the study, I feel it is safe to say that if both of these different societies were to perform an identical task, the foraging society would use less energy per task than the developed society. This way, I perceive there to be a balance of the overall amount the body expends.
Overall, I thought this study was quite interesting, and it has raised many questions for me. It is magnificent to be able to realize the effects of human evolution on our daily lives and across cultures. They manner in how our bodies adapt and recognizes changes is constantly astonishing me; it allows me to appreciate the diversity as well as similarities people of all walks of life fall in.