Monday, March 29, 2010

The role of fat in brain evolution

This was in a post on one of the diabetes lists I belong to, and I'm thinking this book might be a very interesting read.
I ran across this book today on Dr. Michael Eades blog, "Survival of the Fattest." Here's a description from the publishers...

"How did humans evolve larger and more sophisticated brains?

In general, evolution depends on a special combination of circumstances: part genetics, part time, and part environment. In the case of human brain evolution, the main environmental influence was adaptation to a ‘shore-based’ diet, which provided the world’s richest source of nutrition, as well as a sedentary lifestyle that promoted fat deposition. Such a diet included shellfish, fish, marsh plants, frogs, bird’s eggs, etc. Humans and, and more importantly, hominid babies started to get fat, a crucial distinction that led to the development of larger brains and to the evolution of modern humans. A larger brain is expensive to maintain and this increasing demand for energy results in, succinctly, survival of the fattest."

So if we hadn't acquired sufficient fat, who knows what we humans might have become? This is a far cry from what we usually hear!

It's an expensive book to buy, but if you are interested, you might find it in your library...

So what will this mean for all those fat babies that everyone thinks need to be put on diets and shouldn't be fat? Seems to me that babies need that fat to help their brains grow and develop and depriving them of their fat stores is going to stunt their brain growth and development. I don't think that is something this country needs - generations of children with smaller and less capable brains simply because some people think fat isn't aesthetically pleasing. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face - that's a case of epic fail right there, people.


  1. Urghh, this whole foetus starver (sing it to 50 Cent's window shopper) movement is like an insane slide into a suicide cult.

    When I heard MeMe Roth mention it at the end of that Nightline "discussion", I realised that it is beginning to gather a bit of momentum and is not just going to go away, due to people recognising that is a line that must not be crossed.

    Then to hear medical professionals also saying it, well, when people who are supposed to be healers are losing sight of what it is to be human, you have to wonder what that says about the effect the way we live now is having on the collective mind.

    It's like some part of it is losing the will to live and I think we need to start talking about that before this gets anymore out of hand.

  2. In my mind, Survival of the Fattest is the same as Survival of the Fittest. What would we be like if we hadn't fattened up? My guess is somewhere around the Cro Magnun era.

    It is no coincidence that the explosion of knowledge that occured for humanity happened during a time when food sources became more prevalent and mankind had enough fat to survive the lean times. With the fear of death lessened for most people, the brain's growth and ability to learn exploded.

    And what fuels the brain? Anyone? Anyone? GLUCOSE! That is the brain's main diet. For me, it's a trade off. We either want everyone to be thin and stupid from a lack of proper nutrition....or we accept fatties for the life sustaining necessity they are to the advancement of the human race~! My new motto is now going to be: Grateful for your brain? THANK A FATTY!!!

  3. Also: human babies, in particular (as opposed to humans in general) got fatter. Some people, including Sarah Hrdy, believe that this is to make sure the babies looked healthy and well-nourished in order to make it less likely that their mothers would reject them. I doubt that anyone these days is likely to decide not to care for their baby based on how well-nourished it looks, but I wonder if that would have any effect on how caregivers (not solely the mother) would care for the baby. After all, we treat tall/symmetrically featured/affluent/etc. people differently without realizing it all the time...

  4. I think you will appreciate our futuristic article on fatlings of the future and how being fat will drive the social and biological evolutionary process for humans in a very positive direction.



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