‘The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease’ by Daniel E. Lieberman PART 1


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Before I begin this review, I’ll start off by saying that I have committed a literary no-no: I didn’t finish reading the book! It’s not because I don’t want to, though. ‘The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease’ is incredibly fascinating (two adjectives means it’s true) and I absolutely plan to finish it. But I have to put it down for now to get some homework done for grad school which is my priority. That being said, I am more than half-way through it and feel I can safely write the PART 1 review for all you lovelies. Make sure to continuously check ma site for updates as I will be posting a review with PART 2 as soon as I finish the book.

This book is written by Mr. Daniel E. Lieberman, the chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. Let me just tell you- Ivy league homeboy knows his evolutionary shit. Damn, is there a TON of great info in here. At times, it can be a little bit of a repetitive drag. It almost reads more like a text-book than anything else. But he hits upon some great nuggets of knowledge that really opened my eyes to the way the human body has evolved to function.

One of the biggest take-aways from PART 1 of this book was the idea of bipedalism: basically, environmental changes made food scarce (btw we ate all fruit and tough fibrous veggies back in the day which caused us to evolve to have GIGANTIC jaws to chew all day long- we have since developed jaws for softer foods). This lack of food pushed us to climb down from the trees to cover miles upon miles of land in search of something to eat. As a result, we evolved to stand, walk, and run on our two feet. We never evolved to be very speedy creatures as a lot of the energy we consumed was sacrificed to grow a bigger brain. But this led us to be more efficient ‘persistence hunters.’ We were evolved for endurance: we were able to cover large distances which would tire out prey. Galloping four-legged animals could run faster than us, but not for very long. An additional benefit of bipedalism was that it enabled us to have more exposure to the sun since we were no longer on all fours (there was less surface area exposed to UV rays and heat). Since other four-legged animals needed to hide out and stay cool in the shade, this gave us a competitive advantage.

Lieberman also discusses the concept of ‘evolutionary mismatch’ where a species is not suitable to live in certain conditions. We are essentially part of this mismatch. Most of these ‘mismatch diseases’ occur when a stimulus either increases or decreases beyond levels for which the body is adapted or when the stimulus is entirely novel and the body is not adapted for it at all. So too much, too little, and too new may be a bad thing. For example, we cannot eat too much fat, too little fat, or a new kind of fat (like hydrogenated fats which are fats that add an extra hydrogen molecule making them last longer on the shelf, but behave like saturated fats which hurt your poor arteries!) without developing problems. This seems like common sense, yet people continually gorge themselves on too much sugar, too many calories, too much sitting, andddd the list can go on.

All-in-all, the most important take-away from PART 1 of this book is that we evolved to walk and run long distances! Although this also may be somewhat of a common sense thing for some people, there are too many Americans on their asses. We need to get up people and move every single day! We also should be barefoot most of the time or wear shoes that are very minimal. I don’t mean to suggest that we go and run a marathon every day. But at the very least, make a conscious effort to walk a couple miles a day. That’s really not very hard! Also, don’t eat all the processed foods which our bodies were never adapted for, silly! Do what your body evolved to do and you will start seeing what it is capable of.

There are many other interesting details Lieberman goes into, so I suggest picking up the book and start reading it for yourself. Guess what?! You can get it right down heya vvvv

 

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