Why Your Body Is Probably Getting More Food Than It Actually Needs

How our diet outpaced our evolution, and how we can close the gap.

Omar Sharaki

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Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Caught up in the brief slice of time we occupy, it’s easy to forget how much the world has changed, and that many of the things we now take for granted were by no means commonplace, even just a few years ago. Perhaps, never was this quite so evident as it is today. We live in what historians have come to call the digital revolution. And although arguably the most groundbreaking, it is but the latest in a long chain of revolutions that have shaped the world we live in — and, in turn, us. But to best understand humans today, one must go back. Way back.

By most estimates, modern humans have been around for about 300 thousand years. There is little discord in the scientific community that over that time period, humans went through changes, both cognitive and physical. The Homo sapiens who painted on the walls of the Chauvet Cave over 30 thousand years ago will have exhibited significant genetic variation from their ancestors who set out of Africa thousands of years before. How similar these cave dwellers were to us, however, is where opinions differ.

Replica of a portion of The Panel of Lions in the Chauvet Cave in Ardèche, France — Wikimedia Commons

The period in human history inhabited by these artists, which started ca 70 thousand years ago, is referred to by Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens, as the Cognitive Revolution. Around this time was when humans really started showing innovative displays in areas such as toolmaking, building and maintaining complex social structures, and even art. The conventional wisdom is that this period heralded the last significant changes to our biology, and that our evolution has since slowed to a crawl — if even that.

Among those who oppose this conventional wisdom are Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, authors of The 10,000 Year Explosion. In their book, they argue that as the world around us continued to change — and as we began bringing about change to the world around us — so too did our minds and bodies not only continue to evolve in response, but they did so at an unprecedented rate. Catalyst for this rapid change…

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Omar Sharaki

Software developer, standup comedian, and guy you wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a plane.