News FocusHUMAN EVOLUTION

What's for Dinner? Researchers Seek Our Ancestors' Answers

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Science  11 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5959, pp. 1478-1479
DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5959.1478

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Summary

Sixteen researchers from multiple disciplines chewed on the question of whether there is an ideal diet for humans as part of a recent workshop on evolution and modern diseases. Those focusing on diet hoped to test the common belief that diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure arise because our bodies are poorly adapted to the modern diet, rich in fat, sugar, and salt. After comparing emerging evidence from ancient humans and diverse modern cultures, the researchers concluded that many factors—including genes, sex, ancestry, and fetal and childhood conditions—influence how we digest foods and store fat. Physiological stress in mothers can leave lingering imprints on descendants for generations. So although it's true that humans evolved to eat a diet relatively high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat, there's no single Paleolithic prescription for better health.