How We Eat Doesn’t Make Any Sense.

How we eat today does not make sense. Because of this, we need to protect ourselves from ourselves.


Our sense of taste has evolved, like everything else we have, to be as reproductively successful as possible. The guy that ate tree bark and dirt for breakfast died before he could pass that behavior on to future generations. Meanwhile, the guy that ate a fatty, fishy, micronutrient-dense diet, he passed on his keen taste. And so, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, our sense of taste has zeroed in on a few things: Sweet things, for example, are almost never poisonous, while very bitter foods often are. Cooked meats taste much more savory than do fresh meats. We prefer salitness to the ideal degree that will keep our cells balanced, neither imploding nor exploding from water pressure. A sense of sourness probably guides us to vitamin C rich fruits.

Thus it is crucial to note that our sense of taste came about not for pleasure, but for survival. And not just for survival either, but for surviving well. Merely surviving is being alive despite being sick and fat; surviving well happens because of of one’s current health. 

But then in the span of an instant humans became civilized, and our biology failed to keep up. The ingredients available to us now are unprecedented — sugar, trans fats, and unlimited everything. Our sense of taste is no longer keenly adapted to our circumstances. Evolution is too slow for that. 

How we eat now is therefore questionable. It is not how we have eaten before, so our biology is at risk of telling us to go astray. Like the monkey in a lab that, given a button that stimulates his brain to release pleasure hormones, narrowly commits his life to pressing it and sleeping, doing nothing else. (This is true.) Of course this practice is not in the legitimate interest of the monkey, but nonetheless if he was not intervened with he would die. 



Sweet (sugary) things used to be rare: “Almost all the fruits our ancestors ate were about as sweet as [modern] carrots.” (Personally, I don’t even consider them sweet.) They only have 3 grams of sugar.

So, sugar didn’t really exist for our ancestors. We only have sweet fruit now because we have bred it to be such since prehistoric times.

But the thing about sugar is it may quite possibly be one of the worst things we eat, given the quantities we consume. One’s risk for diabetes goes up 29% if he consumes a soda (~40 grams of sugar) per day, regardless of one’s weight and everything else one eats. Similarly, sugar consumption is significantly connected to mortality risk.,

But despite this danger, see this graph of historical sugar consumption (UK) over time:

Without agriculture, human sugar consumption was significantly less than the lowest point on this graph.


Keep in mind that without agriculture, human sugar consumption for >99.9% of human history was actually far lower than the earliest and lowest point on the graph show here. 

Today, the average American consumes 23 teaspoons of sugar daily (77 lbs a year).


Why would we be killing ourselves, and happy doing it? Because our biology is outdated, providing us with meretricious pleasure from sugar.


The interesting thing is we’re drawn to sugar. It’s addictive, more so than cocaine, at least in mice. Because of this, we might eat as much sugar in a week as our ancestors did in a year, maybe more. This can happen because our biology was calibrated for the scarcity, not the abundance, of sugar. Keep in mind we only live in the latest less-than-0.1% of human history, so evolution has not kept up.


We’re abiding by old rules (“eat everything sweet [of which few things are]”) in a new game, where everything is, or can be made to be, sweet. 

Our sense of taste is misleading us. We need to counterbalance, consciously.


If we do not recognize the gap in our taste versus the world, we will only continue down a treacherous path. 40% of us are already ‘obese’, and an additional 30% (merely) overweight. This is not normal. What could have caused this other than the sudden change in modern diet?


One in fourteen Americans is ‘extremely obese’.

We have the sense of taste we do because of the conditions that our species once experienced as hunter-gatherers. This is why we like sweet things, this is why we think we want sugary foods. But the whole point of our sense of the taste in the first place was to encourage us to eat so that we become maximally healthy, immune, and energized. But in a new world we risk going overboard, and killing ourselves in the implicit pursuit of health. For this reason, if we still seek to be maximally healthy, immune, and energized, we need to consciously correct for the red herrings of our taste. If we don’t, we may still survive, but we will not be surviving well: we will be more sickly, more lethargic, and less happy. Otherwise, we’ll all end up like the guy that ate tree bark.