Paleontologist To Humans: Stop Sugar Binging, Start Moving More | KUOW News and Information

Paleontologist To Humans: Stop Sugar Binging, Start Moving More

Oct 14, 2013

We may be living longer, but we aren’t necessarily living better, argues Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist and author of Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease.

“We’re taller, we don’t die of infectious diseases that used to kill us by droves, infant mortality rates are down to less than 1 percent,” Lieberman said. “But on the other hand, there are all kinds of noninfectious diseases we suffer from that our ancestors never suffered from before.”

Diseases such as diabetes, flat feet and cancer.

“By not addressing the causes of these diseases, we’ve set into motion a vicious circle, a pernicious feedback loop that keeps those diseases common,” Lieberman told The Record’s Marcie Sillman.  

Most evil of all: sugar. The typical hunter gatherer consumed 6 to 10 pounds of sugar a year. Humans today ingest 100 pounds of sugar a year – and we’re not exercising nearly as much as our hunter gathering ancestors.

Lieberman said we need help, because we haven’t evolved to make the choices people have to make today.

“We are manipulating people using ancient evolutionary urges,” he said. “The urge to take it easy, the urge to have calorie-rich food, but at the same time bombarding ourselves with environments for which we never evolved to cope with.”

That education should extend to labeling genetically-modified food, he said. 

“If you’re going to pay for something,” he said, “shouldn’t you have the right to know what’s in it? That seems like a reasonable freedom.”

Nanny state

Lieberman disagreed with critics of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large cups of sugary beverages.

Bloomberg wasn’t promoting a nanny state, Lieberman said, but nudging New York residents.

“He wasn’t preventing people from drinking soda; he actually got a great conversation going, and if you wanted 36 ounces, or whatever obscene amount it was, you simply had to buy two,” Lieberman said. 

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