Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Food for Thought Dietary change was a driving force in human evolution
Scientific American ^ | December 2002 | William R. Leonard

Posted on 11/19/2002 12:54:45 PM PST by PatrickHenry

We humans are strange primates. We walk on two legs, carry around enormous brains and have colonized every corner of the globe. Anthropologists and biologists have long sought to understand how our lineage came to differ so profoundly from the primate norm in these ways, and over the years all manner of hypotheses aimed at explaining each of these oddities have been put forth. But a growing body of evidence indicates that these miscellaneous quirks of humanity in fact have a common thread: they are largely the result of natural selection acting to maximize dietary quality and foraging efficiency. Changes in food availability over time, it seems, strongly influenced our hominid ancestors. Thus, in an evolutionary sense, we are very much what we ate.

Accordingly, what we eat is yet another way in which we differ from our primate kin. Contemporary human populations the world over have diets richer in calories and nutrients than those of our cousins, the great apes. So when and how did our ancestors' eating habits diverge from those of other primates? Further, to what extent have modern humans departed from the ancestral dietary pattern?

Scientific interest in the evolution of human nutritional requirements has a long history. But relevant investigations started gaining momentum after 1985, when S. Boyd Eaton and Melvin J. Konner of Emory University published a seminal paper in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled "Paleolithic Nutrition." They argued that the prevalence in modern societies of many chronic diseases--obesity, hypertension, coronary heart disease and diabetes, among them--is the consequence of a mismatch between modern dietary patterns and the type of diet that our species evolved to eat as prehistoric hunter-gatherers. Since then, however, understanding of the evolution of human nutritional needs has advanced considerably-- thanks in large part to new comparative analyses of traditionally living human populations and other primates--and a more nuanced picture has emerged. We now know that humans have evolved not to subsist on a single, Paleolithic diet but to be flexible eaters, an insight that has important implications for the current debate over what people today should eat in order to be healthy.

To appreciate the role of diet in human evolution, we must remember that the search for food, its consumption and, ultimately, how it is used for biological processes are all critical aspects of an organism's ecology. The energy dynamic between organisms and their environments--that is, energy expended in relation to energy acquired--has important adaptive consequences for survival and reproduction. These two components of Darwinian fitness are reflected in the way we divide up an animal's energy budget. Maintenance energy is what keeps an animal alive on a day-to-day basis. Productive energy, on the other hand, is associated with producing and raising offspring for the next generation. For mammals like ourselves, this must cover the increased costs that mothers incur during pregnancy and lactation.

The type of environment a creature inhabits will influence the distribution of energy between these components, with harsher conditions creating higher maintenance demands. Nevertheless, the goal of all organisms is the same: to devote sufficient funds to reproduction to ensure the long-term success of the species. Thus, by looking at the way animals go about obtaining and then allocating food energy, we can better discern how natural selection produces evolutionary change.

Becoming Bipeds
Without exception, living nonhuman primates habitually move around on all fours, or quadrupedally, when they are on the ground. Scientists generally assume therefore that the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees (our closest living relative) was also a quadruped. Exactly when the last common ancestor lived is unknown, but clear indications of bipedalism--the trait that distinguished ancient humans from other apes--are evident in the oldest known species of Australopithecus, which lived in Africa roughly four million years ago. Ideas about why bipedalism evolved abound in the paleoanthropological literature. C. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University proposed in 1981 that two-legged locomotion freed the arms to carry children and foraged goods. More recently, Kevin D. Hunt of Indiana University has posited that bipedalism emerged as a feeding posture that enabled access to foods that had previously been out of reach. Peter Wheeler of Liverpool John Moores University submits that moving upright allowed early humans to better regulate their body temperature by exposing less surface area to the blazing African sun.

[Long article. Click here for the Next 5 Pages.

(Excerpt) Read more at sciam.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: crevolist; evolution; godsgravesglyphs; nutrition; primates
About the author:
WILLIAM R. LEONARD is a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University. He was born in Jamestown, N.Y., and received his Ph.D. in biological anthropology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1987. The author of more than 80 research articles on nutrition and energetics among contemporary and prehistoric populations, Leonard has studied indigenous agricultural groups in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru and traditional herding populations in central and southern Siberia.
1 posted on 11/19/2002 12:54:46 PM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: VadeRetro; jennyp; Junior; longshadow; *crevo_list; RadioAstronomer; Scully; Piltdown_Woman; ...
Another crevo thread.
2 posted on 11/19/2002 12:56:12 PM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
"Thus, in an evolutionary sense, we are very much what we ate."

Well, then why is everyone worried about what we eat now? Our bodies should just evolve to better handle the Big Macs, large fries and giant chocolate shakes.

3 posted on 11/19/2002 12:58:53 PM PST by MEGoody
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
The sound of the server crashing to its knees under the weight of crevo posts. (slow just now)

My fourth grade health book -- printed during the Pleistocene -- recommended eating a wide variety of foods. Has something changed?

4 posted on 11/19/2002 1:00:00 PM PST by js1138
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Noooooooo!

Actually, I've been occupied elsewhere, with another literalist who seems to have taken it as his personal mission to drive the Roman Catholic vote away from the Republican Party. Sure hope the next evangelical revival goes well, because given their rein, these guys could get the conserative vote to, oh, let's say, maybe as high as 15%.

5 posted on 11/19/2002 1:01:17 PM PST by Right Wing Professor
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
"And God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.' And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them."

...I think is the primary answer, though not necessarily contrary to that posed here, which would theorize some semblance of mechanism.

6 posted on 11/19/2002 1:03:11 PM PST by onedoug
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Right Wing Professor
To: Marathon

Missionaries have said for years that American educational/media institutions are far more closed than in places like Russia. This underscores their point. What was it someone said, to find real communists these days you have to visit an American university?

2 Posted on 03/27/2000 10:56:24 PST by Marathon



7 posted on 11/19/2002 1:09:48 PM PST by f.Christian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Do you think if you feed a horse sushi and strawberries it will turn into a yuppie?
8 posted on 11/19/2002 1:11:05 PM PST by f.Christian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: MEGoody
Well, then why is everyone worried about what we eat now? Our bodies should just evolve to better handle the Big Macs, large fries and giant chocolate shakes.

The problem is that medical science is preventing that step in human evolution. If they keep on doing heart bypass operations to save people, then the genetic superiority of those who can survive "Super Sizing" their fast food meals cannot be exploited. However, if Hitlery takes over the country's medical system and drives it into the ground, people will no longer be able to survive their heart attacks.

Please look for my book "All I really needed to know about eugenics, I learned at McDonalds" coming to bookstores and drive-thrus near you.

9 posted on 11/19/2002 1:11:15 PM PST by KarlInOhio
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
It is well known and long established that civilization occured because of mankinds need to make beer.
10 posted on 11/19/2002 1:23:48 PM PST by Khurkris
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
I haven't caught up with the last thread yet.
11 posted on 11/19/2002 1:26:48 PM PST by <1/1,000,000th%
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Khurkris
Nah, actually human civilization evolved in order to better serve the needs of our dogs.
12 posted on 11/19/2002 1:29:30 PM PST by Seruzawa
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Improved dietary quality alone cannot explain why hominid brains grew

The author completely misses two boats:

1) Our brains as well as other genetic development really took off upon the invention of war, which is in effect high-speed evolution. If you match two tribes together in a battle, the smartest tribe usually wins. That is the reason our brains grew. Darwin knew this, yet modern liberal university professors are in denial because it doesn't fit in with the socialist utopian / narcissistic view of humans.

2) The author didn’t even read Atkin’s diet book, else would have learned that matching calorie intake to calorie consumption is an oversimplification. The author is too deep into the world is flat community that he can’t bring himself to realize he may have been wrong all these years.

13 posted on 11/19/2002 1:41:42 PM PST by Reeses
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Reads like a course in primate morphology. It's interesting to note that Goodall reported that in cases of infanticide and cannibalization of infants by females among wild chimps at Gombe, the infants born to those females weighed more and were larger-brained than infants born to non-cannabalizing females. This is just another example of the correlation between relative brain size and "choicest" diet.
14 posted on 11/19/2002 1:44:46 PM PST by stanz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Reeses
Our brains as well as other genetic development really took off upon the invention of war, which is in effect high-speed evolution. If you match two tribes together in a battle, the smartest tribe usually wins. That is the reason our brains grew

I thought it was cooperation in the hunt and the eating of meat that contributed to the growth in brain size. Before you can fight, you need to eat. Social organization follows and you need socialization to wage war.

15 posted on 11/19/2002 1:48:04 PM PST by stanz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: KarlInOhio
Surviving "Super Sizing" is not the solution. If "Super Sizing" gives a portion of the population a reproductive advantage, then it is a good thing in terms of natural selection. The older proportions of the population are, by-and-large, not the reproducers or the child-rearing portion of the population. As such, the older portion is useful to a community to the extent they can guide, educate, and assist the younger portion. Otherwise, they would simply be a drag on the available resources.

Note, many of the diseases related to a the typical poor American diet tend to show up in older people - coronary heart disease, hypertension, loss of teeth, osteoporosis, etc. Diseases due to malnutrtion tend to strike the yougest members of a population. Malnutrition is a leading cause of death in the third world. Diet and the availability of food has been an important factor in the development of modern human history (since the time of the first pasoralists).

Modern medicine and the availability of a steady food supply has lengthened the human life span. I am making no judgement whether that is a good or bad thing. To the extent that we can adapt to the less healthy parts of our diet through our prime reproductive years, the selection process is working properly.

16 posted on 11/19/2002 1:51:00 PM PST by capitan_refugio
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: stanz
I thought it was cooperation in the hunt and the eating of meat that contributed to the growth in brain size.

Then dogs should have brains as big as ours. It was the first murder, the first human with a temper, the first human who decided to rob and rape, that set the ball rolling of our advanced genetics.

17 posted on 11/19/2002 1:53:26 PM PST by Reeses
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: stanz
I figured it was the Gray aliens from Zeta Reticuli that came down in flying saucers and replaced some of our primate ancestors' DNA with the alien DNA to spawn the human race.
18 posted on 11/19/2002 1:55:03 PM PST by xrp
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: xrp; Tribune7; AnnaZ; Alamo-Girl; betty boop; Phaedrus; Heartlander; gore3000; AndrewC
To: Dimensio

As I see it, evolution is an ideological(RELIGION)* doctrine(DOGMA)*.

If it were only a "scientific theory", it would have died a natural death 50 - 70 years ago; the evidence against it is too overwhelming and has been all along. The people defending it are doing so because they do not like the alternatives to an atheistic basis for science and do not like the logical implications of abandoning their atheistic paradigm and, in conducting themselves that way, they have achieved a degree of immunity to what most people call logic.

488 posted on 7/29/02 5:18 AM Pacific by medved

Great quote. Thanks for posting it.


294 posted on 10/18/02 11:59 AM Pacific by AnnaZ


*...my additions!
19 posted on 11/19/2002 1:57:56 PM PST by f.Christian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: MEGoody
"Thus, in an evolutionary sense, we are very much what we ate."

Then, no question, I am an individually-wrapped, itty-bitty Snickers Bar. (Happens this time every year.)

20 posted on 11/19/2002 2:00:55 PM PST by hillsborofox
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Square Peg? (Evolution)

Round Hole? (Reality)

Solution? Bigger Hammer!!! (Creative 'Science')

21 posted on 11/19/2002 2:05:53 PM PST by keithtoo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: stanz
I thought it was cooperation in the hunt and the eating of meat that contributed to the growth in brain size. Before you can fight, you need to eat. Social organization follows and you need socialization to wage war.

It's all interrelated. A predator pack needs a large territory, and needs to defend that territory against competitors. Those who are best at utilizing their territory, and in defending it and expanding it, will pass on their genes. Those who are ineffective in defending their territory from encroachment will die out. Somehow, I think there's some applicability here with regards to our current immigration policy...

22 posted on 11/19/2002 2:13:43 PM PST by SauronOfMordor
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: f.Christian
Here, here!
23 posted on 11/19/2002 2:15:59 PM PST by ECM
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: SauronOfMordor
I think there's some applicability here with regards to our current immigration policy

Or lack of therein..... :)

24 posted on 11/19/2002 2:17:25 PM PST by stanz
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Reeses
It was the first murder, the first human with a temper, the first human who decided to rob and rape

Like when we were cast out of eden and childbirth would henceforth be painful due to larger crania?

There are so many allusions to evolution in the Adam/Eve scenario.... but pondering them sure starts a lot of fights around here.

When I consider Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape within the context of Genesis, it sure explains a lot. I think he stretches a bit at times, but he's spot on when he restricts himself to zoological interpretation of human evolution.

25 posted on 11/19/2002 2:20:38 PM PST by txhurl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Khurkris
mankinds need to make beer.

Then it was noticed that almost the same process made bread. So mankind built cities to provide infrastructure for beer and bread-making. That's about as far as we have gotten so far.

26 posted on 11/19/2002 2:21:27 PM PST by RightWhale
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: f.Christian
Thanks for the heads up!
27 posted on 11/19/2002 2:30:28 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: capitan_refugio
The whole theory of evolution created by differential reproductive success has gone way out the window in modern societies.

In general, the most successful members of our society from an economic and status standpoint have the fewest children (NBA players excepted.

The least successful members have the most children.

In general, Americans today have surviving children in exactly the number they choose to. Thus the evolutionary traits being selected for are either desire for children or being too stupid to use birth control. Neither has any relationship to traditional theories of evolution.
28 posted on 11/19/2002 2:51:58 PM PST by Restorer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
And Twinkies will power our trek over the bridge to the 22nd Century.
29 posted on 11/19/2002 2:54:24 PM PST by APBaer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: KarlInOhio; MEGoody
"Well, then why is everyone worried about what we eat now? Our bodies should just evolve to better handle the Big Macs, large fries and giant chocolate shakes."

"The problem is that medical science is preventing that step in human evolution. If they keep on doing heart bypass operations to save people, then the genetic superiority of those who can survive "Super Sizing" their fast food meals cannot be exploited. However, if Hitlery takes over the country's medical system and drives it into the ground, people will no longer be able to survive their heart attacks."

Evolution continues as always...and may have even acellerated(sp).

My theory:
If, as has been claimed, that our bodies are now contaminated with drugs, alcohol, nicotine, fats and etc., the sperm and eggs of future humans that cannot cope with these 'pollutants' very simply do not conceive. Females have many unknown abortions through-out their lives and all the 'problems' of modern society are comprehended in this process. Only those that can tolerate present day conditions even make it to being conceived. The high cholestoral and heart attacks are just a minor player in this scenario.

30 posted on 11/19/2002 3:20:29 PM PST by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: MEGoody
Give us a few hundred generations of eating those foods, and we just might.
31 posted on 11/19/2002 3:26:26 PM PST by Junior
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Junior
they are largely the result of natural selection acting to maximize dietary quality and foraging efficiency. Changes in food availability over time, it seems, strongly influenced our hominid ancestors. Thus, in an evolutionary sense, we are very much what we ate.

Thus arose the French... :-)

32 posted on 11/19/2002 3:51:59 PM PST by glorgau
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 31 | View Replies]

To: Restorer
That's certainly one way to look at it! ;^)
33 posted on 11/19/2002 5:38:37 PM PST by capitan_refugio
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: xrp
Are you saying that some Gray had a Neanderthal in a haystack?
34 posted on 11/19/2002 5:40:38 PM PST by capitan_refugio
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: All
Placemarker.
35 posted on 11/19/2002 7:16:34 PM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Another crevo thread.

Patrick, say it with some feeling, like:

Wow! Another crevo-thread!!!

Hehe

36 posted on 11/20/2002 1:37:16 PM PST by Scully
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Scully
Wow! Another crevo-thread!!!

I've seen more enthusiasm at a Walter Mondale victory party. I guess some threads just don't catch fire. Whatcha gonna do?

37 posted on 11/20/2002 1:53:47 PM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

Study explores plausibility of bulbs and tubers in the diet of early human ancestors
PhysOrg | Friday, July 25, 2008 | UC Santa Cruz
Posted on 07/25/2008 8:15:37 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2051557/posts


38 posted on 07/25/2008 8:25:17 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_________________________Profile updated Friday, May 30, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]


· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Blast from the Past.

Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are Blam, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

· Google · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Mirabilis · Texas AM Anthropology News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo ·
· History or Science & Nature Podcasts · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·


39 posted on 07/25/2008 8:25:46 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_________________________Profile updated Friday, May 30, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson