We all know we’re supposed to eat sweets sparingly, but the CRAVING is still there. It can be unstoppable, and NPR Books just published an article that explains the cause from an evolutionary biological perspective.In short, our Paleolithic bodies were trained to crave sugars because they were a quick energy supply that wasn’t usually available. Now that we have a lot of access to sugary foods, we’re running into a variety of conditions that are caused by our bodies not being able to process this (relatively) recent uptake in this type of food.
Fascinating, right? The article was prompted by an upcoming book called The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University. The entire article is a very interesting insight into the book’s content, but perhaps the most relevant part was a discussion of how our ancient bodies deal with modern stress:
Stress creates this vicious cycle, this positive feedback loop. When you’re stressed you crave unhealthy foods, but when you’re stressed you also have a harder time sleeping, and when you have a harder time sleeping that elevates your levels of stress. It just sets off this chain reaction that keeps going on and on. Now normally, when we’re stressed, the stimulus that causes the stress should be a short-lived one; that’s what evolution predicted. … So a lion chases you, that’s a very stressful event, obviously, hopefully you managed to run away from the lion … life goes on. But much of the stress we create today results from social conditions. If you think about the most stressful things we experience, they’re often our lives — they’re our jobs, our commutes, not having enough money, the list goes on. Those, of course, elicit chronic levels of stress. And when stress becomes chronic, then it helps feed a variety of mismatch diseases that make us ill, that make us depressed, that make us anxious, that make us overweight, which causes more stress and then keeps the cycle going.
To learn more about how the human body has evolved to land us in our current state, check out Dr. Daniel Liebarman’s website.