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Darwinian Fairytales, deluxe edition: Fast food derails evolution

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Just as, we are told, climate change jump started it:

From Nautilus:

Burgers and fries have nearly killed our ancestral microbiome.

No wonder I keep running into people who are nearly 100 years of age.

(True, I spend a fair bit of time at a local retirement residence, but there was a time when you wouldn’t meet nearly as many people well over 90 anyway. – O’Leary for News )

A group of Italian microbiologists had compared the intestinal microbes of young villagers in Burkina Faso with those of children in Florence, Italy. The villagers, who subsisted on a diet of mostly millet and sorghum, harbored far more microbial diversity than the Florentines, who ate a variant of the refined, Western diet. Where the Florentine microbial community was adapted to protein, fats, and simple sugars, the Burkina Faso microbiome was oriented toward degrading the complex plant carbohydrates we call fiber.

The concern is that these microbes will go extinct.

Many who study the microbiome suspect that we are experiencing an extinction spasm within that parallels the extinction crisis gripping the planet. Numerous factors are implicated in these disappearances. Antibiotics, available after World War II, can work like napalm, indiscriminately flattening our internal ecosystems. Modern sanitary amenities, which began in the late 19th century, may limit sharing of disease- and health-promoting microbes alike. Today’s houses in today’s cities seal us away from many of the soil, plant, and animal microbes that rained down on us during our evolution, possibly limiting an important source of novelty.

“If we wait to the point where we are beyond a shadow of a doubt, with double-blind studies translated to regulations, we’re going to be waiting decades,” Sonnenburg told me. “But right now, all the arrows are pointing in the same direction, toward fiber.” More.

I just wish I know how to relate these doubtless valid concerns to the clear advantage of being, say, a fast food-chomping Canadian rather than a virtuous resident of Burkina Faso, when it comes to longevity:

Burkina Faso
Male 57.6 Female 59.4
Total 58.6

Canada
Male: 79.8 Female: 84.0
Total: 82.0

There’s got to be a good explanation, but I am not sure if I will understand it.

See also: Human evolution, the skinny

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3 Replies to “Darwinian Fairytales, deluxe edition: Fast food derails evolution

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    There’s got to be a good explanation, but I am not sure if I will understand it.

    There are quite a few factors besides the microbiome involved, I assume. The infant mortality rate in Burkina Faso is about 78 per 1000 live births vs. under 5 per 1000 in Canada. The GDP per capita in Burkina Faso is less than $2000 compared to $45000 in Canada.

  2. 2
    brian douglas says:

    What is interesting isn’t the fact that the median age at death in developed countries, but that the maximum age has not changed during recorded history.

  3. 3
    Seversky says:

    If it comes to a choice between burgers and fries and a diet of millet and sorghum, guess which most people would choose – including villagers in Burkina Faso. Poor people in other parts of the world today – and our own distant ancestors – didn’t eat fibrous diets based on nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains because they Liked them. It was all they could get.

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