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Insecurity, Inequality, and Obesity in Affluent Societies$
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Avner Offer, Rachel Pechey, and Stanley Ulijaszek

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264980

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264980.001.0001

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Obesity: An Evolutionary Perspective

Obesity: An Evolutionary Perspective

Chapter:
(p.55) Chapter 3 Obesity: An Evolutionary Perspective
Source:
Insecurity, Inequality, and Obesity in Affluent Societies
Author(s):

Robin I.M. Dunbar

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197264980.003.0003

The brain consumes about 20 per cent of the total energy intake in human adults. Primates, and especially humans, have unusually large brains for body size compared with other vertebrates, and fuelling these is a significant drain on both time and energy. Larger-brained primates generally eat fruit-intense diets, but human brains are so large that a reduction in gut size is needed to free up sufficient resources to allow a larger brain to be evolved, placing further pressure on foraging. The early invention of cooking increased nutrient absorption by around 30 per cent over raw food. Increasing digestibility in this way perhaps inevitably leads to risk of obesity when food is super-abundant, as it is in post-industrial societies. However, obesity has clearly been around for a long time, as suggested by the late Palaeolithic Venus figures of Europe, so it is not a novel problem.

Keywords:   energy intake, fuelling the brain, evolution, brain size, digestibility, cooking, obesity

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