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Modern Human Physiology with Respect to Evolutionary Adaptations that Relate to Diet in the Past

Lindeberg, Staffan LU (2009) Symposium on the Evolution of Hominid Diets In Evolution of Hominin Diets - Integrating Approaches to the Study of Palaeolithic Subsistence p.43-57
Abstract
This paper reviews evidence from human physiology as to which foods may have been typically consumed by the hominin ancestral lineage up to the advent of anatomically modern humans. Considerable evidence suggests that many common diseases can be prevented by hunter-gatherer diets. Apparently, human nutritional metabolism is not perfectly fine-tuned for recently introduced staple foods, such as cereals, dairy products, added salt, and refined fats and sugar. It is much more uncertain if human physiology can provide direct evidence of which animal and plant foods were regularly consumed during human evolution, and in what proportions. The requirements of ascorbic acid can easily be met by organ meats from large animals, as well as by plant... (More)
This paper reviews evidence from human physiology as to which foods may have been typically consumed by the hominin ancestral lineage up to the advent of anatomically modern humans. Considerable evidence suggests that many common diseases can be prevented by hunter-gatherer diets. Apparently, human nutritional metabolism is not perfectly fine-tuned for recently introduced staple foods, such as cereals, dairy products, added salt, and refined fats and sugar. It is much more uncertain if human physiology can provide direct evidence of which animal and plant foods were regularly consumed during human evolution, and in what proportions. The requirements of ascorbic acid can easily be met by organ meats from large animals, as well as by plant foods. Vitamin B 12 is absent in plant foods and must be supplied from meat, fish, shellfish, or insects, but the required amounts are apparently small. Since iodized salt and dairy products were not available before the advent of agriculture, only those ancestors with highly regular access to fish or shellfish would be expected to have reached the currently recommended intake of iodine. However, there is insufficient data to suggest that humans, by way of natural selection, would have become completely dependent on marine food sources. Therefore, it is highly possible that human requirements for iodine are currently increased by some dietary factors. These theoretically include goitrogens in certain roots, vegetables, beans, and seeds. The notion that humans are strictly dependent on marine foods to meet requirements of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids still awaits solid evidence. Shifting the focus from general human characteristics to ethnic differences, persistent lactase activity in adulthood is obviously not the only characteristic to have emerged under nutritional selection pressure. Other examples are a relative resistance against diseases of affluence in northern Europeans and a relatively low prevalence of gluten intolerance in populations with a long history of wheat consumption. In conclusion, humans are well adapted for lean meat, fish, insects and highly diverse plant foods without being clearly dependent on any particular proportions of plants versus meat. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Human physiology, evolutionary medicine, nutrition
in
Evolution of Hominin Diets - Integrating Approaches to the Study of Palaeolithic Subsistence
pages
43 - 57
publisher
Springer
conference name
Symposium on the Evolution of Hominid Diets
external identifiers
  • WOS:000269825000004
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
42ff0a0b-309d-4ef0-9a98-b6909ca8c421 (old id 1490809)
date added to LUP
2009-10-19 11:14:06
date last changed
2016-04-16 09:46:27
@inproceedings{42ff0a0b-309d-4ef0-9a98-b6909ca8c421,
  abstract     = {This paper reviews evidence from human physiology as to which foods may have been typically consumed by the hominin ancestral lineage up to the advent of anatomically modern humans. Considerable evidence suggests that many common diseases can be prevented by hunter-gatherer diets. Apparently, human nutritional metabolism is not perfectly fine-tuned for recently introduced staple foods, such as cereals, dairy products, added salt, and refined fats and sugar. It is much more uncertain if human physiology can provide direct evidence of which animal and plant foods were regularly consumed during human evolution, and in what proportions. The requirements of ascorbic acid can easily be met by organ meats from large animals, as well as by plant foods. Vitamin B 12 is absent in plant foods and must be supplied from meat, fish, shellfish, or insects, but the required amounts are apparently small. Since iodized salt and dairy products were not available before the advent of agriculture, only those ancestors with highly regular access to fish or shellfish would be expected to have reached the currently recommended intake of iodine. However, there is insufficient data to suggest that humans, by way of natural selection, would have become completely dependent on marine food sources. Therefore, it is highly possible that human requirements for iodine are currently increased by some dietary factors. These theoretically include goitrogens in certain roots, vegetables, beans, and seeds. The notion that humans are strictly dependent on marine foods to meet requirements of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids still awaits solid evidence. Shifting the focus from general human characteristics to ethnic differences, persistent lactase activity in adulthood is obviously not the only characteristic to have emerged under nutritional selection pressure. Other examples are a relative resistance against diseases of affluence in northern Europeans and a relatively low prevalence of gluten intolerance in populations with a long history of wheat consumption. In conclusion, humans are well adapted for lean meat, fish, insects and highly diverse plant foods without being clearly dependent on any particular proportions of plants versus meat.},
  author       = {Lindeberg, Staffan},
  booktitle    = {Evolution of Hominin Diets - Integrating Approaches to the Study of Palaeolithic Subsistence},
  keyword      = {Human physiology,evolutionary medicine,nutrition},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {43--57},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  title        = {Modern Human Physiology with Respect to Evolutionary Adaptations that Relate to Diet in the Past},
  year         = {2009},
}