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Evolution – Where Are We Heading? We Really Need To Redirect!

Written by: Louise Mercieca, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Science often comes full circle. Is what we discover ever really something completely new or just a new angle on existing perspective? We have seen countless scientific and medical discoveries and breakthroughs in the last 100 years alone and yet, somehow, humans are becoming increasingly unhealthier. How is this possible with all of our advances in technology?

Well, perhaps to gain an understanding of where we are now, we need to take a look back in history. Do you remember that ever so clever chap, Charles Darwin? The English Naturalist whose theory and study around the origin of species is still widely held to be a fundamental part of modern biological theory? He certainly had a profound impact on the understanding of human life, so let’s look at his theory in relation to modern humans.


Darwin’s work involved looking at how species survive (or not if we consider natural selection) by adapting to their external environment and making minor modifications through successive generations. How are we as humans currently ‘evolving’ to our external environment?


Darwin’s theory around natural selection simplistically looked at the survival of the fittest – this theory went into a complex biological study of natural genetic modifications to suit an external environment – quoted from his work: ‒


“In a nutshell, as random genetic mutations occur within an organism's genetic code, the beneficial mutations are preserved because they aid survival -- a process known as "natural selection." These beneficial mutations are passed on to the next generation.”


What do we know now about human genetic modifications and heritable traits?


A lot more. Advances in molecular biology and genetics have progressed considerably since Darwin’s time. Molecular Biologists admit to the vast complexity of the human body being far more complex than we will probably ever understand and even Darwin admitted that back in his day!


So, we know a lot more, we know that we are very complicated structures. It would take decades to research one part of the human body, but the question is when it comes to evolution and genetic modifications to suit our external environment – what exactly are we doing to ourselves as a species?


Darwin would not recognise the world today (and I personally don’t think he would like some aspects of it). The biggest change is technology, great in many ways but what has technology done to our evolution?


Movement – human beings are designed biologically, anatomically and physiologically to move. Not moving much is actually very bad for our overall health and well-being. The evolutionary heritable traits potentially being passed on as biological subtle modification through generations of sedentary adults include:

  • Lack of stamina and endurance

  • Lack of physical strength

  • Poor cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory health

  • Decreased bone density

  • Lack of desire to be physically active (more cultural than biological but has an impact)

Mood and behaviour


Another change is around our temperament as we become more impatient and more reliant on instant gratification. But this all has physical implications too. As we adapt to live in a world that is, perhaps too fast for our biology, what is happening to our health?


We have created a world that is fast-paced and now we are expected to keep up with it. This pace is increasing and the effects on human life are huge. The particular emphasis with this one is our mental health. We never switch off. We carry everyday stress in the way our ancestors never would – their stress was short-lived and hormonally that’s much healthier than prolonged stress.


We are already seeing an increase in oxidative stress, a condition brought on by prolonged stress causing the symptoms listed below, many people function every day for decades with these symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle and/or joint pain

  • Low energy

  • Mood fluctuations

  • Brain fog (unable to concentrate)

  • Headaches

  • Upset tummy

  • Mood fluctuations

  • Loss/increase in appetite

  • Loss/increase in weight

  • Decreased eyesight

  • Increased inflammation in the body

Of course, we have lived through a particularly stressful time in recent years with the global pandemic, it has been hard to ‘switch off’ with 24-hour news increasing our anxiety, often with good reason.


We are now witnessing children who are experiencing high rates of poor mental health, children aged 5 with anxiety is normal now and to be a teenager today is more stressful than 30/40 years ago, largely because of technology. Yes, technological advances are great in many ways but what toll is it placing on our health?


Diminished cognitive function


We have seen a huge increase in cases of dementia and we know that one link in dementia prevention is actively using your brain. If we rely on technology and are not using our own cognitive abilities then our brain capacity will, over time diminish.


Malnourishment


As a Nutritional Therapist, I couldn’t fail to mention the link with food, and it is a big one! We have witnessed immense changes in our food landscape as our food becomes increasingly ‘designed’ for convenience rather than farmed for health.


As humans progress with medical and biological knowledge we should in theory get healthier, if this is the case then why in 2022, do we see cases of Scurvy and Rickets, conditions which should have died out long ago. The global nutrition report back in 2016 had to redefine the term malnourishment to refer to a ‘bad nutrition’ rather than starvation.


“We have had to redefine what the world thinks of as being malnourished”. Malnutrition literally means bad nutrition – that’s anyone who isn’t adequately nourished, not people who are actually starving.


Statement from the Global Nutrition Report 2016


Not only do we have conditions directly linked with malnutrition but we have obesity and malnutrition existing within the same populations. In a statement from the World Health Organisation (WHO) they said that;


“44% of countries were experiencing under-nutrition and obesity within the same populations”


Obesity is an evolutionary example of how our human bodies are adapting and evolving to our changing environment. Obesity is immensely complicated and often misrepresented. If we continue with the narrative that people should “eat less and move more” then we truly are heading into a world full of future health issues.


Obesity is a condition that is both preventable and heritable meaning there is an evolutionary link but one that can be influenced by how we live our lives. For me, though the change is too big to place the emphasis on each individual. We often see headlines about the ‘problem of obesity’ or how to ‘tackle’ it. These tend to place the guilt, the shame and even the blame on to individuals. This approach hasn’t got us very far in the last 40 years as global obesity has more than trebled.


Obesity is not caused by greed or laziness it is caused by environmental changes which our biology adapts to.

  1. Our food landscape which is overly processed and lacking in nutrients

  2. Our stressful existence which exacerbates our food relationship and stress encourages the body to store more fat

  3. Our environment – most jobs are sedentary, we have cars, we have machines, we do not need to use our body as much but that doesn’t mean our bodies like that change, our bodies need to move.

How do I feel about the current way in which humans are evolving?


If we consider Darwin’s theory of natural selection then we could say that these are heritable traits for the worse not better. This is not demonstrating the survival of the fittest but survival with medical assistance. If this is the way that evolution is going then count me out – I don’t see an easy way out, not without gargantuan changes from big industries but one thing we can be is informed.


I aim to ensure that we are informed and I do this via my consultancy services, my podcast and my book ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ if we can start children out on the right path then maybe they don’t need to fit into the future that’s mapped out for them with current health predictions. We can influence our own and our children’s future health.


Louise Mercieca

Nutritional Therapist


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

 

Louise Mercieca, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Louise Mercieca is a Nutritional Therapist and Founder of The Health Kick, a business driven to provide understandable, practical nutritional advice, in a world driven by diet culture and convenience eating. Louise is influential in the early-years health sector, making an impact that can shape the next generation’s eating habits. She is the author of ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ and is hugely passionate about spreading the message that children can make healthy food choices that lay the foundations for their future health. We don't need to walk into the health predictions set for us, we have the ability to change them!

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