Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

16: Contemporary Topics: Human Biology and Health

  • Page ID

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    Learning Objectives

    • Describe what is meant by a “mismatch” between our evolved biology and contemporary lifestyles and how this is reflected in modern disease patterns.
    • Describe diet and physical activity patterns among preagricultural hunter-gatherers.
    • Describe changes in subsistence, diet, and activity patterns that occurred as a result of the transition to food production and how these affected health among early agriculturalists.
    • Explain what is meant by an epidemiological transition and describe the major transitions in patterns of disease among humans that have occurred throughout human evolution.
    • Explain what is meant by examining health issues from an ecological perspective.
    • Discuss examples of contemporary evolution.

    When is the last time you needed to do research for an upcoming paper? I bet you started by looking for information online. How did you go about your search? Which websites looked promising? Which ones did not entice you to click past the home page? Once you found one you thought might be useful, how much time did you spend searching for information? At what point did you decide to leave that site and move on? I would wager money that you never once thought your behavior had anything do with human evolution, but it does.

    Although we may not often stop to think about it, our evolutionary past is reflected in many aspects of modern life. The ways we “forage” for information on the internet mimics the ways we once foraged for food during our several-million-year history as hunter-gatherers (Chin et al. 2015). Humans are visual hunters (Lieberman 2006). We practice optimal foraging strategy, meaning we make decisions based on energy return for investment (McElroy and Townsend 2009). When we search for information online, we locate a “patch,” in this case a website or research article, then quickly scan the contents to discern how many resources it has that we can use. Like our hominin ancestors, we spend more time in “patches” with abundant resources and abandon sites quickly and move on once we have exhausted the available goods. As with internet searches, our evolutionary past is also reflected in the kinds of landscapes we find appealing, the foods that taste good to us, why we break a sweat at the gym, and why we have to go to the gym at all (Bogin 1991; Dutton 2009; Lieberman 2015). Many of the health problems facing humans in the 21st century also have their beginnings in the millions of years we roamed the earth as foragers.

    This chapter addresses contemporary health issues from an evolutionary perspective. It begins with a review of diet, activity patterns, and causes of morbidity and mortality among our preagricultural ancestors, which form the foundation for the ways our bodies function today. This is followed by a discussion of the health consequences of the transition to agriculture, marking the first of three major epidemiological transitions experienced by humankind. It then hones in on health conditions that have become all too familiar to those of us living in modern, industrialized societies, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, cancer, and the impact of stress on health. The environments in which we now live and the choices we make put a strain on biological systems that came about in response to selective pressures in our past. Furthermore, the transitions happened too quickly for natural selection to keep up (Stearns et al. 2008).

    About the Author

    Joylin Namie

    Truckee Meadows Community College,

    Joylin Namie

    Dr. Joylin Namie teaches courses in biological and cultural anthropology at Truckee Meadows Community College. Her research interests are in the areas of food, gender, media, and health. She began her career interviewing women in Costa Rica regarding beliefs about breast cancer and investigating the ways these affected engagement with cancer screening. She then moved to food studies, publishing on a variety of topics, including the cultural reasons mothers feed their children junk food, how images of successful athletes are used to market unhealthy foods as “fuel” for athletic pursuits, and feminine representation in sports nutrition advertising. She enjoys collaborating with students, including exploring plastic surgery among Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women in Utah, which resulted in a documentary film and an article that won the award for best paper in Social Science from the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. She also co-researched and co-authored an article with students on the ways Mormon masculinity promotes involvement with child-feeding. In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Namie’s favorite things in life are competing in sports and traveling, often with her dog, Brooklyn, who has run behind her mountain bike everywhere from Vermont to Vancouver Island.

    For Further Exploration

    Lents, Nathan H. 2018. Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Stearns, Stephen C., and Jacob C. Koella, eds. 2008. Evolution in Health and Disease. Second Edition. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

    Zuk, Marlene. 2013. Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.


    Abid, Zaynah, Amanda J. Cross, and Rashmi Sinha. 2014. “Meat, Dairy, and Cancer.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 100, Issue Supplement 1 (1): 386S–393S.

    Akil, Luma, and H. Anwar Ahmad. 2011. “Relationships between Obesity and Cardiovascular Diseases in Four Southern States and Colorado.” Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 22 (Suppl. 4): 61–72.

    Akinbami, Lara J., Alan E. Simon, and Lauren M. Rossen. 2016. “Changing Trends in Asthma Prevalence among Children.” Pediatrics 137 (1). doi:10.1542/peds.2015-2354.

    Ali, Aus Tariq. 2014. “Reproductive Factors and the Risk of Endometrial Cancers.” International Journal of Gynecological Cancer 24 (3): 384–393.

    American Heart Association. 2014. “Smoking & Cardiovascular Disease (Heart Disease).” Last modified February 17, 2014. document/d/1iMgccSz67i37839NhIAPGQlwsWA3VGtSKtejlrGN_LI/edit.

    ——— 2018. “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2017 At-a-Glance.” Last modified January 31, 2018.

    American Psychiatric Association (APA). 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. Fifth Edition: DSM-5. Washington, DC: APA.

    Andrews, Tessa M., Steven T. Kalinowski, and Mary J. Leonard. 2011. “Are Humans Evolving? A Classroom Discussion to Change Students’ Misconceptions Regarding Natural Selection.” Evolution: Education and Outreach 4 (3): 456–466.

    Armelagos, George. 1990. “Health and Disease in Populations in Transition.” In Disease in Populations in Transition, edited by Alan C. Swedlund and George J. Armelagos, 127–144. New York: Bergin & Garvey.

    Armelagos, George J., Peter J. Brown, and Bethany Turner. 2005. “Evolutionary, Historical and Political Economic Perspectives on Health and Disease.” Social Science and Medicine 61 (4): 755–765.

    Asher, Claire. 2017. “Illegal Bushmeat Trade Threatens Human Health and Great Apes.” Mongabay, April 6.

    Baer, Hans, and Merrill Singer. 2009. Global Warming and the Political Ecology of Health: Emerging Crises and Systemic Solutions. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

    Baker, W.A., G.A. Hitman, K. Hawrami, M.I. McCarthy et al. 1994. “Apolipoprotein D Gene Polymorphism: A New Genetic Marker for Type 2 Diabetic Subjects in Nauru and South India.” Diabetic Medicine 11 (10): 947–952.

    Baltic, Milan Z., and Marija Boskovic. 2015. “When Man Met Meat: Meat in Human Nutrition from Ancient Times Till Today.” Procedia Food Science 5: 6–9.

    Beasley, Richard, Alex Semprini, and Edwin A. Mitchell. 2015. “Risk Factors for Asthma: Is Prevention Possible?” The Lancet 386 (9998): 1075–1085.

    Berenbaum, Francis. 2011. “Diabetes-induced Osteoarthritis: From a New Paradigm to a New Phenotype.” Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 70 (8). doi:10.1136/ard.2010.146399.

    Berna, Francesco, Paul Goldberg, Liora Kolska Horwitz, James Brink, Sharon Holt, Marion Bamford, and Michael Chazan. 2012. “Microstratigraphic Evidence of In Situ Fire in the Acheulean Strata of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape Province, South Africa.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: E1215e-E1220.

    Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). 2017. “Diabetes and the Commercially Insured U.S. Population.” The Health of America Report, August 1.

    Bogin, Barry. 1991. “The Evolution of Human Nutrition.” In The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method, edited by Lola Romanucci-Ross, Daniel E. Moerman, and Laurence R. Tancredi, 158–195. New York: Bergin & Garvey.

    Bouchard, Claude. 2007. “The Biological Predisposition to Obesity: Beyond the Thrifty Genotype Scenario.” International Journal of Obesity 31: 1337–1339.

    Brown, Peter J. 1991. “Culture and the Evolution of Obesity.” Human Nature 2 (1): 31–57.

    Bruni, L., L. Barrionuevo-Rosas, G. Albero, B. Serrano et al. 2017. “Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases in the World.” Summary Report 27, July. ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer (HPV Information Centre).

    Buchman, Aron S., Lei Yu, Robert S. Wilson, Andrew Lim, Robert J. Dawe, Chris Gaiteri, Sue E. Leurgans, Julie A. Schneider, and David A. Bennett. 2019. “Physical Activity, Common Brain Pathologies, and Cognition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults.” Neurology 98 (2). doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000006954.

    Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). 2010. Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risk. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2014. Breastfeeding Report Card: United States/2014. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    ———. 2016. “Leading Causes of Death.” National Center for Health Statistics.

    ——— 2017. “Human Papillomavirus.” Genital HPV Infection—Fact Sheet. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    ———. 2017. “Asthma.” National Center for Health Statistics.

    Cerón, Ella. 2017. “Here’s Every Oreo Flavor Ever Created.”, June 19.

    Chen, Yang, Yi-Lun Lee, and Guang-Hui Dong. 2012. “Gender Difference of Childhood Overweight and Obesity in Predicting the Risk of Incident Asthma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Obesity Reviews 14 (3): 222–231. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01055.x

    Chin, Jessie, Brennan R. Payne, Wai-Tat Fu, Daniel G. Morrow, and Elizabeth A. L. Stine-Morrow. 2015. “Information Foraging across the Life Span: Search and Switch in Unknown Patches.” Topics in Cognitive Science 7 (3): 428–450.

    Cooling, Laura. 2015. “Blood Groups in Infection and Host Susceptibility.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews 28 (3): 801–870.

    Cordain, Loren. 2002. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    Crosby, Alfred W., Jr. 2003. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. 30th Anniversary Edition. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

    Croston, Glenn. 2012. “The Thing We Fear More Than Death: Why Predators Are Responsible for Our Fear of Public Speaking.” Psychology Today blog, November 29.

    Crow, James F., and Motoo Kimura. 1970. An Introduction to Population Genetics Theory. New York: Harper and Row.

    Currie, Candace, Naman Ahluwalia, Emmanuelle Godeau, Saoirse Nic Gabhainn, Pernille Due, and Dorothy B. Mille . 2012. “Is Obesity at Individual and National Level Associated with Lower Age at Menarche? Evidence from 34 Countries in the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study.” Journal of Adolescent Health 50 (6): 621–626.

    David, A. Rosalie, and Michael Zimmerman. 2010. “Cancer: An Old Disease, A New Disease or Something In Between?” Nature Reviews: Cancer 10 (10): 728–733.

    Davis, Mike. 2005. The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. New York: Owl Books.

    de Silva, A. M., K. R. Walder, T. J. Aitman, T. Gotoda, A. P. Goldstone, A. M. Hodge, M. P. de Courten, P. Z. Zimmet, and G. R. Collier. 1999. “Combination of Polymophisms in OB-R and the OB Gene Associated with Insulin Resistance in Nauruan Males.” International Journal of Obesity 23 (8): 816–822.

    Devuyst, Olivier. 2014. “High Time for Human Height.” Peritoneal Dialysis International 34 (7): 685–686.

    Diamond, Jared. 1987. “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.” Discover, May: 64–66.

    ———. 1997. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W. W. Norton.

    Dimsdale, Joel E. 2008. “Psychological Stress and Cardiovascular Disease.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 51 (13): 1237–1246.

    Dunn, Robb. 2018. Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live. New York: Basic Books.

    Dutton, Denis. 2009. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution. New York: Bloomsbury.

    Eaton, S. Boyd, Melvin Konner, and Marjorie Shostak. 1988. “Stone Agers in the Fast Lane: Chronic Degenerative Diseases in Evolutionary Perspective.” American Journal of Medicine 84 (4): 739–749.

    Eaton, S. Boyd, Malcolm C. Pike, Roger V. Short, Nancy C. Lee, James Trussell, Robert A. Hatcher, James W. Wood, et al. 1994. “Women’s Reproductive Cancers in Evolutionary Context.” The Quarterly Review of Biology 69 (3): 353–367.

    Ewald, Paul W. 2018. “Ancient Cancers and Infection-Induced Oncogenesis.” International Journal of Paleopathology 21: 178–185.

    Fall, Tove, Cecilia Lundholm, Anne K. Orkqvist, Katja Fall et al. 2015. Early Exposure to Dogs and Farm Animals and the Risk of Childhood Asthma. JAMA Pediatrics 169 (11). doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.3219.

    Farb, Peter, and George Armelagos. 1980. Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating. New York: Washington Square Press.

    Findley, Sally, Katherine Lawler, Monisha Bindra, Linda Maggio, Madeline M. Penachio, and Christopher Maylahn. 2003. “Elevated Asthma and Indoor Environmental Exposures among Puerto Rican Children of East Harlem.” Journal of Asthma 40 (5): 557–569.

    Flinn, Mark V., and Barry G. England. 2003. “Childhood Stress: Endocrine and Immune Responses to Psychosocial Events.” In Social and Cultural Lives of Immune Systems: Theory and Practice in Medical Anthropology and International Health, edited by James M. Wilce Jr., 105–146. London: Routledge.

    Fumagalli, Matteo, Ida Moltke, Niels Grarup, Fernando Racimo, Peter Bjerregaard, Marit E. Jørgensen, Thorfinn S. Korneliussen, et al. 2015. “Greenlandic Inuit Show Genetic Signatures of Diet and Climate Adaptation.” Science349 (6254): 1343–1347.

    Gao, George. 2015. “Americans’ Ideal Family Size Is Smaller Than It Used to Be.” Pew Research Center, May 8.

    Gladwell, Malcolm. 2007. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Back Bay Books.

    Goulder, Philip J., Sharon R. Lewin, and Ellen M. Leitman. 2016. “Paediatric HIV Infection: The Potential for Cure.” Nature Reviews Immunology 16: 259–271.

    Graber, Cynthia. 2014. “Michael Pollan Explains What’s Wrong with the Paleo Diet.” Mother Jones, January 17.

    Greaves, Mel. 2015. “Evolutionary Determinants of Cancer.” Cancer Discovery 5 (8): 806–820.

    Greenspan, Louise, and Julianna Deardorff. 2014. The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early Development in Today’s Girls. New York: Rodale.

    Guadagno, Rosanna E., Bradley M. Okdie, and Sara A. Kruse. 2012. “Dating Deception: Gender, Online Dating, and Exaggerated Self-Presentation.” Computers in Human Behavior 28 (2): 642–647.

    Guilak, Farshid. 2012. “Biomechanical Factors in Osteoarthritis.” Best Practice & Research: Clinical Rheumatology 25 (6): 815–823.

    Gurven, Michael, and Hillard Kaplan. 2007. “Longevity among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination.” Population and Development Review 33 (2): 321–365.

    Hamilton, Cheryl. 2011. Communicating for Results, a Guide for Business and the Professions, Ninth Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

    Harper, Kristin, and George Armelagos. 2010. “The Changing Disease-Scape in the Third Epidemiological Transition.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 7 (2): 675–697.

    Harris, Marvin. 1989. “Life Without Chiefs.” New Age Journal, November/December: 42–45, 205–209.

    Hatton, Tim. 2014. “Why Did Humans Grow Four Inches in 100 Years? It Wasn’t Just Diet.” The Conversation, May 1.

    Hays, J. N. 2005. Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impacts on Human History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

    International Diabetes Federation (IDF). 2018. IDF Diabetes Atlas. Eighth Edition.

    Issa, Rital, and Timothy M. Griffin. 2012. “Pathobiology of Obesity and Osteoarthritis: Integrating Biomechanics and Inflammation.” Pathobiology of Aging and Age-Related Diseases 2 (1).

    Jain, H. K.. 2012. “Transition to Twenty-First Century Agriculture: Change of Direction.” Agricultural Research 1 (1): 12–17.

    Jones, Kate E., Nikkita G. Patel, Mark A. Levy, Adam Storeygard, Deborah Balk, John L. Gittleman, and Peter Daszak. 2008. “Global Trends in Emerging Infectious Disease.” Nature 451 (7181): 990–993.

    Jones, Rachel K., and Joerg Dreweke. 2011. Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use. Report, April 2011. New York: Guttmacher Institute.

    Joseph, Christine L. M., Betsy Foxman, Frederick E. Leickly, Edward Peterson, and Dennis Ownby. 1996. “Prevalence of Possible Undiagnosed Asthma and Associated Morbidity among Urban Schoolchildren.” Journal of Pediatrics 129 (5): 735–742.

    Kaczmarczyk, Melissa M., Michael J. Miller, and Gregory G. Freund. 2012. “The Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber: Beyond the Usual Suspects of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Cardiovascular Disease and Colon Cancer.” Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental 61 (8): 1058–1066.

    Larsen, Clark Spencer. 2014. “Foraging to Farming Transition: Global Health Impacts, Trends, and Variation.” In Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, edited by Claire Smith, 2818–2824. New York: Springer.

    Lattimer, James M., and Mark D. Haub. 2010. “Effects of Dietary Fiber and Its Components on Metabolic Health.” Nutrients 2 (12): 1266–1289.

    Lee, Richard B. 2013. The Dobe Ju/’hoansi. Fourth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

    Leontis, Lisa M. N.d. “Type 2 Diabetes and Exercise: Exercise Makes It Easier to Control Your Diabetes.”

    Lieberman, Daniel E. 2015. “Human Locomotion and Heat Loss: An Evolutionary Perspective.” Comprehensive Physiology 5(1): 99–117.

    Lieberman, Leslie Sue. 2006. “Evolutionary and Anthropological Perspectives on Optimal Foraging in Obesogenic Environments.” Appetite 47 (1): 3–9.

    Liu, Gang. 2018. “Abstract P184: Meat Cooking Methods and Risk of Hypertension: Results From Three Prospective Cohort Studies.” Circulation 137 (Suppl. 1): AP184.

    Liu, Gang, Geng Zong, Kana Wu, Yang Hu, Yanping Li, Walter C. Willett, David M. Eisenberg, Frank B. Hu, and Qi Sun. 2018. “Meat Cooking Methods and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Results From Three Prospective Cohort Studies.” Diabetes Care 41 (5): 1049–1060.

    Livingston, Gretchen. 2015. “Childlessness.” Pew Research Center, May 7.

    Lopalco, Lucia. 2010. “CCR5: From Natural Resistance to a New Anti-HIV Strategy.” Viruses 2 (2): 574–600.

    Lucock, Mark D., Charlotte E. Martin, Zoe R. Yates, and Martin Veysey. 2014. “Diet and Our Genetic Legacy in the Recent Anthropocene: A Darwinian Perspective to Nutritional Health.” Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 19 (1): 68–83.

    Main, Douglas. 2013. “Ancient Mutation Explains Missing Wisdom Teeth.” Live Science, March 13.

    Malina, Robert M., and Bertis B. Little. 2008. “Physical Activity: The Present in the Context of the Past.” American Journal of Human Biology 20 (4): 373–391.

    Mandsager, Kyle, Serge Harb, and Paul Cremer. 2018. “Association of Cardiorespiratory Fitness with Long-term Mortality among Adults Undergoing Exercise Treadmill Testing.” JAMA Network Open 1 (6): e183605. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.3605.

    Marciniak, Stephanie, and George H. Perry. 2017. “Harnessing Ancient Genomes to Study the History of Human Adaptation.” Nature Reviews Genetics 18: 659–674.

    Marlowe, Frank W. 2005. “Hunter-Gatherers and Human Evolution.” Evolutionary Anthropology 14 (2): 54–67.

    Marmot, Michael. 2005. “Social Determinants of Health Inequality.” The Lancet 365 (9464): 1099–1104.

    Martini, Frederic H., William C. Ober, Edwin F. Bartholomew, and Judi L. Nath. 2013. Visual Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology. Boston, MA: Pearson.

    Mathews, T.J., and Brady E. Hamilton. 2016. “Mean Age of Mothers Is on the Rise: United States, 2000–2014.” National Center for Health Statistics (CHS) Data Brief. No. 232.

    McElroy, Ann, and Patricia Townsend. 2009. Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective. Fifth Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    McEvoy, Claire T., Norman Temple, and Jayne V. Woodside. 2012. “Vegetarian Diets, Low-Meat Diets and Health: A Review.” Public Health Nutrition 15 (12): 2287–2294.

    McKee, Trudy, and James R. McKee. 2015. Biochemistry: The Molecular Basis of Life. Sixth Edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Moss, Michael. 2013. Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. New York: Random House.

    National Geographic Society. N.d. Resource Library: Encyclopedic Entry (n.d.), s.v., “Autotroph.” National Geographic Society.

    National Institutes of Health (NIH). 2017. “Obesity and Cancer Fact Sheet.” Last modified January, 2017.

    Neeha, V. S., and Priyamvadah Kinth. 2013. “Nutrigenomics Research: A Review.”Journal of Food Science and Technology, 50 (3): 415–428.

    Neel, James V. 1962. “Diabetes Mellitus: A ‘Thrifty’ Genotype Rendered Detrimental by ‘Progress’?” American Journal of Human Genetics 14 (4): 353–362.

    Novembre, John, Alison P. Galvani, and Montgomery Slatkin. 2005. “The Geographic Spread of the CCR5 Δ32 HIV-Resistance Allele.” PLoS Biology 3 (11): e339.

    Odes, Edward J., Patrick S. Randolph-Quinney, Maryna Steyn, Zach Throckmorton, Jacqueline S. Smilg, Bernhard Zipfel, Tanya N. Augustine, et al. 2016. “Earliest Hominin Cancer: 1.7-Million-Year-Old Osteosarcoma from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa.” South African Journal of Science 112 (7–8): 1–5.

    O’Keefe Osborn, Corinne. 2017. “Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes: What’s the Difference?” Healthline Newsletter, August 24.

    Omran, Abdel R. 1971. “The Epidemiological Transition: A Theory of the Epidemiology of Population Change.” Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 49 (4): 509–538.

    ———. 2005. “The Epidemiological Transition: A Theory of the Epidemiology of Population Change.” The Milbank Quarterly 83 (4): 731–757.

    Organ, Chris, Charles L. Nunn, Zarin Machanda, and Richard W. Wrangham. 2011. “Phylogenetic Rate Shifts in Feeding Time during the Evolution of Homo.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (35): 14555–14559.

    Ortega, Alexander Neil, Peter J. Gergen, A. David Paltiel, Howard Bauchner, Kathleen D. Belanger, and Brian P. Leaderer. 2002. “Impact of Site of Care, Race, and Hispanic Ethnicity on Medication Use for Childhood Asthma.” Pediatrics 109 (1): E1.

    Palma-Gudiel, H., A. Córdova-Palomera, E. Eixarch, M. Deuschle, and L. Fañanás. 2015. “Maternal Psychosocial Stress during Pregnancy Alters the Epigenetic Signature of the Glucocorticoid Receptor Gene Promoter in Their Offspring: A Meta-Analysis.” Epigenetics 10 (10): 893–902.

    Pamuk, Şevket. 2007. “The Black Death and the Origins of the ‘Great Divergence’ across Europe, 1300–1600.” European Review of Economic History 11 (3): 289–317.

    Pearl, Robert. 2015. “Why Health Care Is Different if You’re Black, Latino, or Poor.” Forbes, March 5.

    Physical Activity Council. 2018. 2018 Participation Report. www.physicalactivitycouncil.c...fs/current.pdf.

    Pickering, Travis Rayne, and Henry T. Bunn. 2007. “The Endurance Running Hypothesis and Hunting and Scavenging in Savanna-Woodlands.” Journal of Human Evolution 53 (4): 434–438.

    Pierce, Mary, and Rebecca Hardy. 2012. “Commentary: The Decreasing Age of Puberty— As Much a Psychosocial as Biological Problem?” International Journal of Epidemiology 41 (1): 300–302.

    Plotnikoff, Ronald C., Sarah A. Costigan, Rebecca L. Williams, Melinda J. Hutchesson, Sarah G. Kennedy, Sara L. Robards, Jennifer Allen, Clare E. Collins, Robin Callister, and John Germov. 2015. “Effectiveness of Interventions Targeting Physical Activity, Nutrition and Healthy Weight for University and College Students: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 12 (1): 1–10.

    Poinar, George. 2018. “Vertebrate Pathogens Vectored by Ancient Hematophagous Arthropods.” Historical Biology, November 7. doi:10.1080/08912963.2018.1545018.

    Pontzer, Herman, David A. Raichlen, Brian M. Wood, Audax Z. P. Mabulla, Susan B. Racette, and Frank W. Marlowe. 2012. “Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Obesity.” PLoS ONE 7 (7): e40503. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040503.

    Pritchard, Jonathan K. 2010. “How We Are Evolving.” Scientific American 303 (4): 4047.

    Raichlen, David A., and Gene E. Alexander. 2014. “Exercise, APOE Genotype, and the Evolution of the Human Lifespan.” Trends in Neurosciences 37 (5): 247–255.

    Raichlen, David A., Herman Pontzer, Jacob A. Harris, Audax Z. P. Mabulla, Frank W. Marlowe, J. Josh Snodgrass, Geeta Eick, J. Colette Berbesque, Amelia Sancilio, Brian M. Wood. 2016. “Physical Activity Patterns and Biomarkers of Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Hunter-Gatherers.” American Journal of Human Biology 29 (2): e22919.

    Rankinen, Tuomo, Aamir Zuberi, Yvon C. Chagnon, S. John Weisnagel, George Argyropoulos, Brandon Walts, Louis Pérusse, and Claude Bouchard. 2006. “The Human Obesity Gene Map: The 2005 Update.” Obesity 14 (4): 529–644.

    Richards, M. P. 2002. “A Brief Review of the Archaeological Evidence for Palaeolithic and Neolithic Subsistence.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 56 (12): 1270–1278.

    Sallis, James F., Neville Owen, and Edwin B. Fisher. 2008. “Chapter 20: Ecological Models of Health Behavior.” In Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, edited by Karen Glanz, Barbara K. Rimer, and K. Viswanath, 465–485. Fourth Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    Sharp, Paul M., and Beatrice H. Hahn. 2011. “Origins of HIV and the AIDS Pandemic.” Cold Springs Harbor Perspectives in Medicine 1 (1): a006841.

    Shreiner, Andrew B., John Y. Kao, and Vincent B. Young. 2015. “The Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease.” Current Opinion in Gastroenterology 31 (1): 69–75.

    Singer, Merrill, and Hans Baer. 2012. “Health Disparity, Health Inequality.” In Introducing Medical Anthropology: A Discipline in Action, Second edition, edited by Merrill Singer and Hans Baer, 175–205. Lanham, MD: AltaMira.

    Singer, Merrill, and Scott Clair. 2003. “Syndemics and Public Health: Reconceptualizing Disease in Bio-Social Context.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17 (4): 423–441.

    Singer, Merrill, Nicola Bulled, Bayla Ostrach, and Emily Mendenhall. 2017. “Syndemics and the Biosocial Conception of Health.” Lancet 389 (10072): 941–950.

    Small, Meg, Lisa Bailey-Davis, Nicole Morgan, and Jennifer Maggs. 2013. “Changes in Eating and Physical Activity Behaviors across Seven Semesters of College: Living On or Off Campus Matters.” Health Education and Behavior 40 (4): 435–441.

    Smith-Morris, Carolyn M. 2004. “Reducing Diabetes in Indian Country: Lessons from the Three Domains Influencing Pima Diabetes.” Human Organization 63 (1): 34–46.

    Sonfield, Adam, Kinsey Hasstedt, Megan L. Cavanaugh, and Ragnar Anderson. 2013. The Social and Economic Benefits of Women’s Ability to Determine Whether and When to Have Children. New York: Guttmacher Institute.

    Stearns, Stephen C., Randolph M. Nesse, and David Haig. 2008. “Introducing Evolutionary Thinking into Medicine.” In Evolution in Health and Disease, edited by Stephen C. Stearns and Jacob C. Koella, 3–15. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

    St. Pierre, Danielle. 2018. “The 15 Best Potato Chips for Every Flavor Craving.” Best, April 6. Retrieved June 13, 2018 from

    Strassmann, Beverly I. 1997. “The Biology of Menstruation in Homo Sapiens: Total Lifetime Menses, Fecundity, and Nonsynchrony in a Natural-Fertility Population.” Current Anthropology 38 (1): 123–129.

    ———. 1999. “Menstrual Cycling and Breast Cancer: An Evolutionary Perspective.” Journal of Women’s Health 8 (2): 193–202.

    Tierney, Mike. 2013. “At Spelman, Dropping Sports in Favor of Fitness.” New York Times, April 13.

    Trafialek, Joanna, and Wojciech Kolanowski. 2014. “Dietary Exposure to Meat-Related Carcinogenic Substances: Is There a Way to Estimate the Risk?” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 65 (6): 774–780.

    UNAIDS. 2018. “Fact Sheet: Latest Statistics on the AIDS Epidemic.”

    Ventola, C. Lee. 2015. “The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis: Part I: Causes and Threats.” Pharmacy & Therapeutics 40 (4): 277–283.

    Versini, M., Jeandel, P., Bashi, T., Bizzaro, G., Blank, M., and Shoenfeld, Y. 2015. “Unraveling the Hygiene Hypothesis of Helminthes and Autoimmunity: Origins, Pathophysiology, and Clinical Applications.” BMC Medicine, 13: 81.

    Vucenik, Ivana, and Joseph P. Stains. 2012. “Obesity and Cancer Risk: Evidence, Mechanisms, and Recommendations.” Special issue, “Nutrition and Physical Activity in Aging, Obesity, and Cancer,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences Volume 1271:: 37–43.

    Walker, Polly, Pamela Rhubart-Berg, Shawn McKenzie, Kristin Kelling, and Robert S. Lawrence. 2005. “Public Health Implications of Meat Production and Consumption.” Public Health Nutrition 8 (4): 348–356.

    Washington, Jesse. 2010. “Blacks Struggle with 72% Unwed Mothers Rate.”, November 7.

    Willett, Walter, Johan Rockström, Brent Loken, Marco Springmann, Tim Lang, Sonja Vermeulen, Tara Garnett, et al. 2019. “Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT–Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems.” The Lancet, January 16.

    Williams, David R., and Selina A. Mohammed. 2013. “Racism and Health I: Pathways and Scientific Evidence.” American Behavioral Scientist 57 (8).

    Wolfe, Nathan, Claire P. Dunavan, and Jared Diamond. 2012. “Origins Of Major Human Infectious Diseases.” In Institute of Medicine: Improving Food Safety Through a One Health Approach: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. A16.

    Woo, Kam S., Timothy C.Y. Kwok, and David S. Celermajer. 2014. “Vegan Diet, Subnormal Vitamin B-12 Status and Cardiovascular Health.” Nutrients 6 (8): 3259–3273.

    World Health Organization (WHO). 2016. Global Report on Diabetes.

    ———. 2017a. “Global Health Estimates 2016: Deaths by Cause, Age, Sex, by Country and by Region, 2000–2016.” Geneva: WHO.

    ———. 2017b. “Obesity and Overweight.” Fact Sheet. Last modified October 2017.

    ———. 2018a. Global Health Observatory (GHO) Data. “Life Expectancy.”

    ———. 2018b. “Cancer.” Fact Sheet. Last modified February 2018.

    ———. 2018c. “Healthy Diet.” Fact Sheet. Last modified October 2018.

    ———. n.d. “Influenza.” Accessed January 7, 2019 from

    Worthman, Carol M., and Jennifer Kuzara. 2005. “Life History and the Early Origins of Health Differentials.” American Journal of Human Biology 17 (1): 95–112.

    Wrangham, Richard. 2009. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. New York: Basic Books.

    Yehuda, Rachel, and Joseph LeDoux. 2007. “Response Variation Following Trauma: A Translational Neuroscience Approach to Understanding PTSD.” Neuron 56 (1): 19–32.

    Zuckerman, Molly K., and George J. Armelagos. 2014. “The Hygiene Hypothesis and the Second Epidemiologic Transition.” In Modern Environments and Human Health: Revisiting the Second Epidemiologic Transition, edited by Molly K. Zuckerman, 301-320. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Zuckerman, Molly Kathleen, Kristin Nicole Harper, Ronald Barrett, and George John Armelagos. 2014. “The Evolution of Disease: Anthropological Perspectives on Epidemiologic Transitions.” Special issue, “Epidemiological Transitions: Beyond Omran’s Theory,” Global Health Action 7(1): 23303. doi:10.3402/gha.v7.23303.

    Zuk, Marlene. 2013. Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live. New York: W. W. Norton.

    Figure Attributions

    Figure 16.1 Carcinogenic Meats a derivative work original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Katie Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License. [Includes Hot dog PNG image by unknown, CC BY-NC 4.0; Rasher of Bacon by unknown, public domain (CC0); Salami aka by André Karwath Aka, CC BY-SA 2.5; Cow PNG image by unknown, CC BY-NC 4.0; sheep PNG image by unknown, CC BY-NC 4.0; Pig on white background by unknown, public domain (CC0).]

    Figure 16.2 Hadazbe returning from hunt by Andreas Lederer has been modified (cropped) and is used under a CC BY 2.0 License.

    Figure 16.3 Obesity rates by country original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Katie Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License. Based on data from Obesity Update. 2017. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Health Statistics.

    Figure 16.4 The potato in three modern forms a derivative work original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Joylin Namie and Katie Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License. [Includes Potato by unknown, public domain (CC0); McDonalds-French-Fries-Plate by Evan-Amos, public domain (CC0); Potato chips bowl by unknown, public domain (CC0).]

    Figure 16.5 Participants of a walk against Diabetes and for general fitness around Nauru airport by Lorrie Graham, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is used under a CC BY 2.0 License.

    Figure 16.6 Medical complications of obesity by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in the public domain.

    Figure 16.7 Glucose metabolism original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

    Figure 16.8 Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Mary Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

    Figure 16.9 Top ten causes of death in the U.S. and worldwide original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Joylin Namie is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License. Based on data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016) and World Health Organization (2018).

    Figure 16.10 Map of CCR5-delta32 allele distribution original to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology by Katie Nelson is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License. [Includes Europe Map Western Political 32847, unknown, Pixabay License; data from Solloch, Ute V., Kathrin Lang, Vinzenz Lange, and Irena Böhme. 2017. “Frequencies of gene variant CCR5-Δ32 in 87 countries based on next-generation sequencing of 1.3 million individuals sampled from 3 national DKMS donor centers.” Human Immonology, 78 (11-12).]

    Figure 16.11 HIV-world-map-UNAIDS by UNAIDS has been designated to the public domain (CC0).

    Figure 16.12 Row four man woman people walking together 3755342 by MaxPixel has been designated to the public domain (CC0).

    This page titled 16: Contemporary Topics: Human Biology and Health is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera, & Lara Braff, Eds. (Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.