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Diet Evolution

February 13, 2009

The dawn of agriculture ushered in a surprisingly unhealthy era for humans.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The evolution of food….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you think the modern American diet is bad for us, it might give you comfort to know that humans have been making unhealthful food choices since long before the advent of fast-food joints.

PETER UNGAR (University of Arkansas):
It’s argued that many of the chronic degenerative diseases that we face relate to a discordance between what we eat today and what our ancestors evolved to eat.

HIRSHON:
That’s paleoanthropologist Peter Ungar of the University of Arkansas. He says it may sound counterintuitive, but after the dawn of agriculture, our height decreased, metabolic diseases emerged, people began to develop cavities, and our lifespans declined. All due, he says, to a decrease in variety and an increased reliance on carbohydrates like wheat or maize. And, he adds, this way of eating persists in our modern diet, which is dominated by processed carbohydrates and fat. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.