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Evolving Human Nutrition: Implications for Public Health

Series: Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology Volume: 64

By: Stanley J Ulijaszek(Author), Neil Mann(Author), Sarah Elton(Author)

432 pages, 66 b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Dec 2013 | #208038 | ISBN-13: 9781107692664
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £29.99 $39 / €34 approx
Hardback | Oct 2012 | #198378 | ISBN-13: 9780521869164
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £80.99 $104 / €92 approx

About this book

While most of us live our lives according to the working week, we did not evolve to be bound by industrial schedules, nor did the food we eat. Despite this, we eat the products of industrialization and often suffer as a consequence.

Evolving Human Nutrition considers aspects of changing human nutrition from evolutionary and social perspectives. It considers what a 'natural' human diet might be, how it has been shaped across evolutionary time and how we have adapted to changing food availability. The transition from hunter-gatherer and the rise of agriculture through to the industrialisation and globalisation of diet are explored. Far from being adapted to a 'Stone Age' diet, humans can consume a vast range of foodstuffs. However, being able to eat anything does not mean that we should eat everything, and therefore engagement with the evolutionary underpinnings of diet and factors influencing it are key to better public health practice.

"Spanning the diverse fields of nutrition ecology, anthropology, biochemistry, and physiology, this three-part, well-written examination of the public health implications of the rapidly changing human diet is filled with carefully documented arguments that invite critical thought. Recommended."
– A. P. Boyar, Choice

"[...] this book brings together a wide range of issues and highlights how contemporary human nutrition is embedded in the contexts of our primate heritage, our hominin ancestry, and our inter-twined histories and modes of social organization. In this way, the book is successful in its aim of going beyond the conventional assumption that modern diets can damage health because our biology remains adapted to a somewhat nebulous 'paleo-diet'."
– Jonathan Wells, American Journal of Human Biology

"This is an extremely eclectic book that covers the evolutionary background, medical effects, and sociopolitical context of our food."
– Grant A. Rutledge and Michael R. Rose, The Quarterly Review of Biology


1. Introduction

Part I. The Animal Within
2. Locating human diet in a mammalian framework
3. Diet and hominin evolution
4. Seasonality of environment and diet
5. Evolution of human diet and eating behaviour

Part II. A Brave New World
6. When our brains left our bodies behind: dietary change and health discordance
7. Nutrition and infectious disease, past and present
8. Inequality and nutritional health

Part III. Once Upon a Time in the West
9. Nutrition transition
10. Fats in the global balance
11. Feed the world with carbohydrates
12. Post-script


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Stanley Ulijaszek is Professor of Human Ecology at the University of Oxford and Director of the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity. His work on nutritional ecology and anthropology has involved fieldwork and research in Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands and South Asia, while his interests in dietary transitions have led him to examine the evolutionary basis of obesity.

Neil Mann is Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry and head of the Food Science department at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. He has worked extensively on the nutritional biochemistry of fatty acids and has led several nutritional clinical trials investigating the role of altered macronutrient dietary balance on diseases related to western lifestyle, including acne and diabetes.

Sarah Elton is Reader in Anatomy at the Hull York Medical School. She works on the ecological context for human evolution, with a focus on primate morphology, biogeography, ecology and evolution. Alongside her research into primates, she has written on evolutionary approaches to human diet, reproduction and medical education.

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