One of our evolutionary hangovers may have a serious negative impact on our health and be fuelling the fire of obesity in children, and in turn adults. Evolutionary biology suggests that; as humans, we have certain cravings for sugar, that though at one time, were necessary to our survival as a species, are now contributing to the problem of obesity.
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An evolutionary hangover is a trait or characteristic that is said to have remained from our evolutionary past, and deemed a contributing factor in our successful adaptation as a species. However, as our circumstances and priorities change, these traits or characteristics, if they stay static, may be counter-productive.
As children we are born with a natural sweet-tooth; a craving for glucose. Glucose is important to have particularly in the brain as it is the only source of fuel for the billions of neurons that are constantly firing while doing even simple tasks like reading or typing. Neurons require a constant supply of glucose because they have no ability to store any reserve, which is why, as any diabetic will tell you, a low blood sugar will send any person into a coma. So naturally the human tongue and mouth are adapted to cravings of sugar in order to ensure that early man had a steady supply of glucose to their brains. It was even noted by scientists that swashing sugar water around in your mouth boosts brain function more than artificially sweetened water does.
The problem now however, is that we live in a society surrounded by refined sugar. We have a steady supply, more than we need in fact, and yet our cravings are not satiated. Children that are exposed to sugar at a young age instead strengthen their cravings into adulthood and this phenomenon is believed to be a contributing factor to the growing (literally) health concern that is obesity.
The NHS states that sugars should not make up more than 10% of the energy you get from food which amounts to roughly 70 grams for men and 50 grams for women. 50 grams is roughly 13 teaspoons, or 2 cans of pop, or 8 chocolate biscuits.
We must be conscious about our cravings and remember that this evolutionary hangover is no longer helping us. By keeping these cravings in check we stand a better chance at living healthy lives.
Imagine limiting your sugar content to 2 cans of pop per day. We often justify eating cookies or cake by stating ‘ well I will have an apple later on today, so I will be eating healthy’. What we fail to realize is that the body cannot differentiate between the cake and the apple when it comes to a fuel source. Both of these items are reduced to the same chemical-glucose- and are used to fuel the brain. What is left over is stored as glycogen, which makes up fat.