Diet and Nutrition Workshop Summary Notes

Summary Notes: Diet and Nutrition Workshop

Workshop Rapporteurs: Jay T Stock (U Cambridge) Claudia R Valeggia (U Pennsylvania)

Workshop Leader: William R Leonard (Northwestern)

One of five workshops in a conference on
Evolution and Diseases of Modern Environments
Organized by Randolph Nesse, at the Berlin Charité October 13-14, 2009
In conjunction with The World Health Summit
Sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation

The following provides a brief summary of the discussions of the Diet and Nutrition Workshop at the Symposium “Evolution and Diseases of Modern Environments”.  Discussions were broadly based around two themes: (1) diet and nutrition in earlier human evolution, and (2) recent human evolution, dietary adaptation and the origins of “diseases of the modern world”.  A summary of these is provided below, followed by a discussion of the relevance of dietary trends in human evolution to understanding the etiology of diseases of the modern world, some general points of agreement between the participants, and proposed areas of future research.

Theme I: Diet in Earlier Human Evolution (more…)

Weather forecasting or maternal manipulation?

Over the past 150,000 years humans have manifestly been migratory, travelling into vastly different climatic regions of the globe. Darwinian evolution can lead to genetic differences in populations living in different climates, but any mechanism that can protect individuals from relatively short-term changes in living conditions that differ from those in which previous generations lived will also be highly advantageous. If a mother can transmit to her unborn offspring cues that will affect its stature, metabolism and a host of life-history characteristics, she will be at an advantage in fitness terms over a mother who cannot. Paradoxically the reasons for thinking that this has indeed been the case is best found when things go wrong. (more…)