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Evolution's twist

"evolutionary tradeoffs," the researchers said, humans lost some advantages over those primates, but gained a higher tolerance to meat, slower aging and longer lifespan.

Still, if humans developed genes to compensate for a meat-rich diet, why do so many now suffer from high cholesterol and vascular disease?

The answer is a lack of exercise and moderation, according to the researchers.

"This shift to a diet rich in meat and fat occurred at a time when the population was dominated by hunters and gatherers," said Finch, a USC University Professor and holder of the ARCO-William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging.

"The level of physical activity among these human ancestors was much higher than most of us have ever known," he said. "Whether humans today, with our sedentary lifestyle, remain highly tolerant to meat eating remains an open question researchers are looking into."

Stanford, co-director of the university's Goodall Research Center, said that modern-day humans "tend to gorge ourselves with meat and fat."

"For example, our ancestors only ate bird eggs in the spring when they were available," he said. "Now we eat them year-round. They may have hunted one deer a season and eaten it over several months. We can go to the supermarket and buy as much meat as we want."

"I think we can learn a lesson from this," Stanford said. "Eating meat is fine, but in moderation and with a lot of exercise."


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Contact: Gilien Silsby or Gia Scafidi
silsby@usc.edu
213-740-2215
University of Southern California
19-Mar-2004


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