Why we sleep the way we do

Who doesn’t love to sleep? The trouble is that some of us don’t do it very well, but perhaps that can be improved with a better understanding of sleep through evolution. If you’re lucky, you’ll spend a third of your life asleep. “That’s pretty incredible if you think about it, because when we’re asleep we’re not doingContinue reading “Why we sleep the way we do”

What a Komodo dragon can teach us about energy balance

Credit: San Diego Zoo Try telling a Komodo dragon that physical activity doesn’t matter and that all one needs to do to lose weight is eat a diet lower in carbohydrates. Meet Sunny, the obese Komodo dragon. Her San Diego Zoo keepers have put her on a strict diet based on her animal energy and metabolicContinue reading “What a Komodo dragon can teach us about energy balance”

Why a fat brain made us more vulnerable to heart disease

Natural selection granted us large brains. The evolutionary cost is having to feed them. The human brain’s high-energy demands led to development of a strong preference for fat. We consume more fat than any other primate on average. We are also adapted to more easily digest and metabolize fats. There are two major kinds ofContinue reading “Why a fat brain made us more vulnerable to heart disease”

Walking Off The Influence of "Thrifty Genes"

“I can’t help it, it’s my genes” is a familiar phrase among frustrated dieters and gym goers who feel they can’t make the scale budge despite all efforts to reduce calories and exercise more. There may be something to their justification. After all, weight can depend partly on genetic makeup (among several other factors). Luckily,Continue reading “Walking Off The Influence of "Thrifty Genes"”

Evolution of the "Hero’s Journey"

When I was a child, my father told me stories of his time spent working for a gold mining company in the Amazon jungle. He brought home tales of fishing for piranhas, evading giant venomous snakes, and nearly being eaten alive by a swarm of ants. Dad also traded with indigenous tribes. My curiosity was piquedContinue reading “Evolution of the "Hero’s Journey"”

What chimpanzee predatory behavior can tell us about early human diets

Among primates, we humans are unique in how much meat we eat. On average we eat 10 times as much meat as chimpanzees, who eat the most meat among wild apes. And, unlike any other primate, humans specialize in eating big-game animals (larger than ourselves) like reindeer and mammoths.  Because of how much meat humansContinue reading “What chimpanzee predatory behavior can tell us about early human diets”

Intermittent fasting for cardiovascular health

At a time when our ancestors existed as hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic, it’s clear that food was not always available and that the fluctuation of feast and famine was probably more apparent. The theory of thrifty genes has it that our metabolic function is dependent on these fluctuations for optimal insulin function. So, it’s hypothesizedContinue reading “Intermittent fasting for cardiovascular health”

Fitness, hunter-gatherer style

Aché man hunting. Credit: Wiki “So the bottom line is that foragers are often in good shape and they look it. They sprint, jog, climb, carry, jump, etc all day long but are not specialists.” The quote above is excerpted from a description given by anthropologist Kim Hill (whose work I’ve previously written about here) ofContinue reading “Fitness, hunter-gatherer style”

How Neandertals Lived, Hunted, and Ate

This Discovery Channel series “Neanderthal” presents a wonderful re-enactment of how Neandertals lived in small groups, how they hunted together, and how they ate. I was especially taken by how much we know about the way they used tools to butcher meat, scraped animal hides (by holding the hides in their teeth and face asContinue reading “How Neandertals Lived, Hunted, and Ate”

Diagnosing Darwin’s multiple gastrointestinal diseases

Charles Darwin (Credit: Wikimedia) Throughout most of Charles Darwin’s adult life, the famed author of On the Origin of Species struggled with repeated episodes of severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting that could last for hours at a time, often occurring about three hours after breakfast, and thought to have been brought on by times ofContinue reading “Diagnosing Darwin’s multiple gastrointestinal diseases”