Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Evolution’s twist

22.03.2004


USC study finds meat-tolerant genes offset high cholesterol and disease



When our human ancestors started eating meat, evolution served up a healthy bonus – the development of genes that offset high cholesterol and chronic diseases associated with a meat-rich diet, according to a new USC study.

Those ancestors also started living longer than ever before – an unexpected evolutionary twist.


The research by USC professors Caleb Finch and Craig Stanford appears in Wednesday’s Quarterly Review of Biology.

"At some point – probably about 2 1/2 million years ago – meat eating became important to humans," said Stanford, chair of the anthropology department in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, "and when that happened, everything changed."

"Meat contains cholesterol and fat, not to mention potential parasites and diseases like Mad Cow," he said. "We believe humans evolved to resist these kinds of things. Mad Cow disease – which probably goes back millions of years – would have wiped out the species if we hadn’t developed meat-tolerant genes."

Finch, the paper’s lead author, and Stanford found unexpected treasure troves in research ranging from chronic disease in great apes to the evolution of the human diet. They also focused on several genes, including apolipoprotein E (apoE), which decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular disease in aging human adults.

Chimpanzees – who eat more meat than any other great ape, but are still largely vegetarian – served as an ideal comparison because they carry a different variation of the apoE gene, yet lack human ancestors’ resistance to diseases associated with a meat-rich diet.

While chimpanzees have a shorter life span compared to humans, they demonstrate accelerated physical and cerebral development, remain fertile into old age and experience few brain-aging changes relative to the devastation of Alzheimer’s seen in humans today. Finch and Stanford argued that the new human apoE variants protected the chimpanzees.

In a series of "evolutionary tradeoffs," the researchers said, humans lost some advantages over those primates, but gained a higher tolerance to meat, slower aging and longer lifespan.

Still, if humans developed genes to compensate for a meat-rich diet, why do so many now suffer from high cholesterol and vascular disease?

The answer is a lack of exercise and moderation, according to the researchers.

"This shift to a diet rich in meat and fat occurred at a time when the population was dominated by hunters and gatherers," said Finch, a USC University Professor and holder of the ARCO-William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging.

"The level of physical activity among these human ancestors was much higher than most of us have ever known," he said. "Whether humans today, with our sedentary lifestyle, remain highly tolerant to meat eating remains an open question researchers are looking into."

Stanford, co-director of the university’s Goodall Research Center, said that modern-day humans "tend to gorge ourselves with meat and fat."

"For example, our ancestors only ate bird eggs in the spring when they were available," he said. "Now we eat them year-round. They may have hunted one deer a season and eaten it over several months. We can go to the supermarket and buy as much meat as we want."

"I think we can learn a lesson from this," Stanford said. "Eating meat is fine, but in moderation and with a lot of exercise."

Gilien Silsby | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.usc.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Immune Defense Without Collateral Damage
23.01.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika
23.01.2017 | D'Or Institute for Research and Education

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>