The evolution of the human diet: From wild meat, fruits, and tubers to candy, donuts, and pizza


  • HF - Student theses


Document type

Publication date

  • 2015

Series/Report no

  • SERN;2015


  • Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus. Institutt for helse, ernæring og ledelse


  • Chronic non-communicable health conditions such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, cancer, the metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease are among the biggest public health problems in the world today. Many, if not most, of these conditions can be classified as diseases of civilization or evolutionary mismatches, as they are rare or nonexistent among hunter-gatherers and traditional societies minimally affected by modern lifestyle habits and increase in prevalence as countries become more industrialized. Diet has been implicated in the pathogenesis of a wide range of chronic illnesses, and several lines of evidence show that differences in dietary habits can help explain the varying rates of chronic disease between non-westernized, traditional societies and industrialized populations. It’s being increasingly recognized in the scientific literature that there has been inadequate time and selection pressure for the human genome to adjust to many of the rapid and powerful changes in the human diet over the last 10.000 years. The resulting mismatch between our ancient genome and our modern diet is particularly visible in countries where the Western dietary pattern, which is characterized by high intakes of fatty meats, refined sugars, alcohol, refined grains, and highly processed foods and low intakes of seafood, fruits, and vegetables, has been adopted by a lot of people. This type of diet sets the stage for chronic disease by adversely affecting gene expression, immunity, and the gut microbiota. Getting back to healthful diet in the 21st century requires combining modern science with an evolutionary perspective on nutrition and realigning our contemporary diet with the type of diet Homo sapiens sapiens evolved to eat