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Monday, September 04, 2006

"Evolution": Now responsible for "global obesity pandemic"

The reason some media sources never run short of bad news is that they can make bad news out of pretty well anything, including including the end of scarcity of food in many parts of the developing world.

Remember when it was too late to save humanity from starvation? Thirty years ago I used to hear people explain that evolution had programmed us all to produce more people than could be fed. "Man is a species that has overbred," and all that.

There are some really remarkable comments in this hot-weather scare, including "This is the first generation in history where children may die before their parents," Steinbeck told the conference.

Oh? Centuries ago, nothing was more common, actually, than parents burying some of their children, and sometimes all of them. Recent generations in the developed world have been among the very first for whom the death of a child is a genuinely unusual event. But I digress.

The evolution link? Oh yes, sorry ...

McGill, senior lecturer in Population Health at the University of Auckland, said humans were designed to maximize their energy intake because their large brains used about one-quarter of their total energy expenditure.

"Early humans sought energy-dense food with high levels of fats, starches and sugars. We are genetically programmed to find foods with these qualities appealing," said McGill.

"However, highly energy-dense Western diets have had many of the flavor and micronutrients processed out of them. The artificial replacements in starchy, fatty and sugary foods make them over-palatable and easy to eat quickly."

Apparently, we are assured, the obesity pandemic is to be blamed on the twin sacred bulls of "evolution" and the "environment", not on sedentary lifestyles, self-indulgence, or an aging population. And, you guessed it, research funds are urgently needed to combat the growing mountains of pudge.

If there been a worldwide trend toward slimming down, "evolution" would explain that too. Just as it explained the worldwide famines of the late twentieth century. Evolution is an all-purpose explanation. And to think some wonder why people are skeptical.

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