Since the advent of the industrial revolution to today, the man-food relationship is becoming more and more sick. Today, it is no longer ruled by purely energy needs, but rather by boredom, fun, habit. Also our economic system plays a huge role in our eating habits.
Furthermore, during our evolutionary history, eating was inextricably linked to physical activity. Are you hungry? Well, take bow and arrows and go hunting for mammoths or take a walk in the woods to see if you can find some berries.
We did this for millions of years and everything was embedded in our DNA . Consequently, our genes have been selected to support intense physical activity, basically hunting, in order to ensure the survival of the species.
However, I’m not saying you have to buy a crossbow and go to the nearest woods to kill wild animals. Unless you want to have trouble with the law, relax and read this article.
THE THRIFTY GENOTYPE
What is left in our DNA is the cycles of feast and food famine that have selected the so-called thrifty genotype.
According to this theory developed over 30 years ago by illustrious scientists like Frank Booth, Homo sapiens developed metabolic processes (basically enzymatic activity, insulin secretion, fat storage, depletion and replacement of muscle glycogen) that coincided exactly with cycles of feast and famine .
In few words, our genes tend to accumulate as much energy as possible, depositing it as muscle glycogen and fat tissue to face the following periods of famine [1,2].
This mechanism, controlled by the thrifty genotype of which our DNA is still equipped, has guaranteed us survival. On the other hand, in our society where food is not scarce (at least in industrialized countries), it turned out to be a double-edge weapon.
Therefore, according to this theory, the frugal genotype is fattening the whole world. In fact, if we look at the obesity data published by the World Health Organization, we understand how these are not just hypothesis but reality .
However, not only obesity but the mismatch between the thrifty genotype and western lifestyle promotes the development of all chronic degenerative diseases .
In conclusion, do we really need all this food? The story that we have to eat a certain amount of calories every day for 365 days a year is just a consumer find? And should the food pyramid be followed?
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1. Manu V. Chakravarthy and Frank W. Booth. Eating, exercise, and “thrifty” genotypes: connecting the dots toward an evolutionary understanding of modern chronic diseases. J Appl Physiol 96: 3–10, 2004.
2. Frank W. Booth and Simon J. Lees. Fundamental questions about genes, inactivity, and chronic diseases. Physiol Genomics 28: 146–157, 2007.