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How Farming Reshaped Our Genomes 144

sciencehabit writes "The earliest farmers may not have been built for the profession. They may have been unable to digest starch and milk, according to a new ancient DNA study of a nearly 8000-year-old human skeleton from Spain (a hunter-gatherer who had dark skin and blue eyes). But these pioneers did already possess immune defenses against some of the diseases that would later become the scourge of civilization. The findings are helping researchers understand what genetic and biological changes humans went through as they made the transition from hunting and gathering to farming."
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How Farming Reshaped Our Genomes

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  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:13PM (#46083599) Homepage Journal

    It means not being too choosy what you om-nom-nom on when the going is lean. Which likely means eating things which may have various parasites, mold spore, other fungi, even partially decomposed. "What luck! A partially decomposed squirrel with red rashes all over its body! Num!" That which didn't kill them, indeed make them stronger (those which survived, that is.)

    In today's scrubby, scrub scrubbed world of clean, inspected and otherwise near perfect world of meat, dairy and produce, we're not challenging our bodies very much. Further, we appear to be adapting to eating sugary, fried or other highly processed food, which means we say "Ewww!" when presented with ethnic foods we haven't seen before, which include the globby or wiggly bits of animals we don't see in the meat case at the market (which traditionally were the best parts, unlike the muscle which was often left behind.)

    Somewhat disconcerting how we haven't turned into beings which are entirely fed by capsule, a la the Jetsons "Oh, dear, I've overcooked the steak and potatoes pill."

    Fortunately, infants keep picking up dead bugs off the carpet and chewing on them, which gives them some bit of a test in developing their immune systems.

  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:16PM (#46083631)

    What is this silliness, that "humans" in the broad, blanket sense could not digest starch? Feh.

    We already know from analysis of Neanderthal remains that they could digest starch, and did in fact eat things like starchy tubers and grains. [] By 8000 years ago, it's generally accepted that the Neanderthals were no more, at least as a distinct population, and that any remaining Neanderthal-specific genes had been absorbed by the wider Cro Magnon population. (Interestingly, it sounds like the Neanderthal genes might give their descendants, i.e. non-sub-Saharan-Africa humans, extra resistance to viral infection. [])

    This study, where evidence from one individual is extrapolated to the entire human population, sounds silly in the extreme. "One Size Fits All!" never really does.


  • by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:21PM (#46083673)

    makes breasts a curious adaptation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 27, 2014 @03:24PM (#46083713)

    You don't seem to realize a flint edge is actually much sharper than any metal blade -- that's why they use silica tips in atomic force microscopes; the tip is only a few atoms wide.

    People used to be very, very good at chipping flint blades.

    You may think a piece of plastic with one or metal blades will shave better, but you'd be wrong.

  • Re:At the time .... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @04:26PM (#46084519) Homepage Journal
    Possibly the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup into everything that's artificially sweetened.
  • Re:At the time .... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday January 27, 2014 @04:41PM (#46084689) Homepage Journal

    Possibly the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup into everything that's artificially sweetened.

    No, and also no. It's the rise of processed foods, which come without the enzymes which break them down and thus help regulate blood sugar, and then the substitution of vegetable oil with HFCS, not simply its inclusion. Using HFCS instead of sugar is barely different. Using HFCS+Citric Acid instead of vegetable oil packs food with unnecessary sugar instead of the fats which give long-term energy. Thus, HFCS is used to do evil, but it's not really inherently evil in its own right. Like a gun, or a bomb.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Monday January 27, 2014 @05:21PM (#46085193) Homepage Journal

    Nobody knows what was going on then. Everyone (the Paleo community included) stop saying how you know humans lived so and so many years ago.

    For all we know, they had an organic food paradise. Fresh fruits and vegetables right off the plants and fresh just-slaughtered grass fed meat to eat.

    Rather like you can read the life of a tree by its rings, you can tell a lot about the diets of people by the condition of their teeth at death, build of their bones and some of the elemental composition. Science is more scientific than ever, which is cursed on a regular basis by those who won't credit it.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."