Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Dawn of Agriculture Took Toll On Health

 

Amanda Mummert led the first comprehensive, global review of the literature regarding stature and health during the agriculture transition. (Credit: Image courtesy of Emory University)

From the 18 June 2011 Science Daily article

 

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2011) — When populations around the globe started turning to agriculture around 10,000 years ago, regardless of their locations and type of crops, a similar trend occurred: The height and health of the people declined….

…”Many people have this image of the rise of agriculture and the dawn of modern civilization, and they just assume that a more stable food source makes you healthier,” Mummert says. “But early agriculturalists experienced nutritional deficiencies and had a harder time adapting to stress, probably because they became dependent on particular food crops, rather than having a more significantly diverse diet.”

She adds that growth in population density spurred by agriculture settlements led to an increase in infectious diseases, likely exacerbated by problems of sanitation and the proximity to domesticated animals and other novel disease vectors.

Eventually, the trend toward shorter stature reversed, and average heights for most populations began increasing. The trend is especially notable in the developed world during the past 75 years, following the industrialization of food systems.

“Culturally, we’re agricultural chauvinists. We tend to think that producing food is always beneficial, but the picture is much more complex than that,” says Emory anthropologist George Armelagos, co-author of the review. “Humans paid a heavy biological cost for agriculture, especially when it came to the variety of nutrients. Even now, about 60 percent of our calories come from corn, rice and wheat.”…

An abstract of the article may be found here.

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June 20, 2011 - Posted by | Nutrition, Public Health | , ,

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