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      The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution

      , , , ,

      The Quarterly Review of Biology

      University of Chicago Press

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          Abstract

          ABSTRACT We propose that plant foods containing high quantities of starch were essential for the evolution of the human phenotype during the Pleistocene. Although previous studies have highlighted a stone tool-mediated shift from primarily plant-based to primarily meat-based diets as critical in the development of the brain and other human traits, we argue that digestible carbohydrates were also necessary to accommodate the increased metabolic demands of a growing brain. Furthermore, we acknowledge the adaptive role cooking played in improving the digestibility and palatability of key carbohydrates. We provide evidence that cooked starch, a source of preformed glucose, greatly increased energy availability to human tissues with high glucose demands, such as the brain, red blood cells, and the developing fetus. We also highlight the auxiliary role copy number variation in the salivary amylase genes may have played in increasing the importance of starch in human evolution following the origins of cooking. Salivary amylases are largely ineffective on raw crystalline starch, but cooking substantially increases both their energy-yielding potential and glycemia. Although uncertainties remain regarding the antiquity of cooking and the origins of salivary amylase gene copy number variation, the hypothesis we present makes a testable prediction that these events are correlated.

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          Most cited references 66

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          Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans

           Iosif Lazaridis,  Krause Johannes (corresponding) ,  Nick Patterson (2014)
          We sequenced genomes from a $\sim$7,000 year old early farmer from Stuttgart in Germany, an $\sim$8,000 year old hunter-gatherer from Luxembourg, and seven $\sim$8,000 year old hunter-gatherers from southern Sweden. We analyzed these data together with other ancient genomes and 2,345 contemporary humans to show that the great majority of present-day Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: West European Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; Ancient North Eurasians (ANE), who were most closely related to Upper Paleolithic Siberians and contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and Early European Farmers (EEF), who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harbored WHG-related ancestry. We model these populations' deep relationships and show that EEF had $\sim$44% ancestry from a "Basal Eurasian" lineage that split prior to the diversification of all other non-African lineages.
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            The Expensive-Tissue Hypothesis: The Brain and the Digestive System in Human and Primate Evolution

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              The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet.

              The domestication of dogs was an important episode in the development of human civilization. The precise timing and location of this event is debated and little is known about the genetic changes that accompanied the transformation of ancient wolves into domestic dogs. Here we conduct whole-genome resequencing of dogs and wolves to identify 3.8 million genetic variants used to identify 36 genomic regions that probably represent targets for selection during dog domestication. Nineteen of these regions contain genes important in brain function, eight of which belong to nervous system development pathways and potentially underlie behavioural changes central to dog domestication. Ten genes with key roles in starch digestion and fat metabolism also show signals of selection. We identify candidate mutations in key genes and provide functional support for an increased starch digestion in dogs relative to wolves. Our results indicate that novel adaptations allowing the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch, relative to the carnivorous diet of wolves, constituted a crucial step in the early domestication of dogs.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                The Quarterly Review of Biology
                The Quarterly Review of Biology
                University of Chicago Press
                0033-5770
                1539-7718
                September 2015
                September 2015
                : 90
                : 3
                : 251-268
                Article
                10.1086/682587
                26591850
                0e66ac77-ea94-43e1-8970-40d7c9386bf3
                © 2015
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