Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century

ABSTRACT

There is growing awareness that the profound changes in the envi- ronment (eg, in diet and other lifestyle conditions) that began with the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry 􏰂10 000 y ago occurred too recently on an evolutionary time scale for the human genome to adjust. In conjunction with this discordance between our ancient, genetically determined biology and the nutritional, cultural, and activity patterns of contemporary Western populations, many of the so-called diseases of civilization have emerged. In particular, food staples and food-processing procedures introduced during the Neolithic and Industrial Periods have fundamentally altered 7 cru- cial nutritional characteristics of ancestral hominin diets: 1) glyce- mic load, 2) fatty acid composition, 3) macronutrient composition, 4) micronutrient density, 5) acid-base balance, 6) sodium-potassium ratio, and 7) fiber content. The evolutionary collision of our ancient genome with the nutritional qualities of recently introduced foods may underlie many of the chronic diseases of Western civilization. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:341–54.

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Low-Fat Diet and Chronic Disease Prevention: the Women’s Health Initiative and Its Reception

ABSTRACT

The Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial was designed to study a low-fat diet, a nutritional approach to prevention of chronic diseases that was considered promising. The negative findings from the trial were both unexpected and disappointing to nutrition authorities. The authors’ public responses to the findings articulated an unwillingness to believe the finding that a low-fat diet did not prevent breast or colon cancer or heart disease. The negative results should stimulate work on alternate hypotheses, and reconsideration of the long-standing proscription against dietary fat.

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