Evolution of food habits

Nature is very tough and punishes species for their inability to adapt and moderate their actions. Then why is it that people don’t realize how much to eat, when to stop eating and what foods are good for health and what are not? What is more interesting is that obesity and malnutrition can occur simultaneously in the same household and in the same individual?
Till about 50-60 years ago, the wages were meager and the food prices were high. Life expectancy was low and sustenance was the key to survival. Hence 25,000 years of man’s evolution taught us to appreciate food that was rich in fats, carbohydrates and salt. Fried, salty, sweet food and meats (esp. red) were rich in them and were keys to man’s ability to stay energized all day along.
One might argue that milk is nutritious, but still kids despise consuming it. Well it’s also evolutionary. Historically milk that was consumed was produced from one’s mother rather than a bovine surrogate. So during the first year, the kid might like to be breast fed every 2 hours, but as it grows up it needs to wean itself away from its mother and find alternative sources of food. This frees the mother’s nutrients which can be stored for the next childbirth and allows the kid to fulfill its dietary needs (which milk alone cannot satisfy)
I had earlier written an article highlighting the importance of salt in all the cultures worldwide. https://enagar.com/2008/11/08/tune-mera-namak-khaya-hai/ . The family size was larger because there were more children and parents/grandparents were also living together. Very few females sought employment outside the household. All this resulted in the words/phrases like “Bread-winner”, “Bringing food to the table” which highlighted the importance of securing food. However today food hardly constitutes 10% of one’s expenses (rent/housing being the largest expense) and its share in the basket of goods and services (CPI/WPI) used to calculate inflation is shrinking with each subsequent revision.
However traditionally due to dependence on local agricultural produce, availability of food was seasonal. Discontinuous employment, wars, famine and floods were nature’s way to force one into a diet plan and shape up. No wonder “Tighten one’s belt” refers to preparing for the hard times that are about to come. Medical diagnostics and cure were rudimentary. Hence one’s chances of survival were proportional to how much fat/energy was stored inside the body. It’s only in the recent few decades that food is plentiful and the external factors that led to temporary curtailment of food supply to the body are non-existent. Hence obesity seen today might be a temporary phase before our body re-adjusts to the new environment or maybe its nature’s way to prepare us for Dec 2012 (which many astrologers believe is the doom’s day)
PS: I thought of explaining “Obesity and malnutrition can occur in the same household and in the same individual.”
As Indians are getting richer, they substitute greens and legumes with sweets and oily food. Due to religious reasons meat is not consumed and this creates a dietary imbalance. The body does not get its required proteins and micronutrients causing mal-nutrition, while excess of carbohydrates, salt and fats causing obesity.
In households that recently escaped poverty (but are still leading marginal existence), the parents and grandparents bodies still have the older metabolic rates (which ensured their survival during their growing up when food was scarce), while the children have normal metabolic rates. As a result a food which is divided equally leads to malnourished and skinny kids but obese parents.

 

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