Eat Hunt Pray Love

Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5' 9'’ for men, 5' 5'’ for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5' 3'’ for men, 5' for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors.

If this prestarvation theory of depression is correct, then it seems odd that so many people are experiencing depression at a time in history when the actual starvation risk appears to be the lowest it has ever been in most of the world. One might think that starvation does not exist in this age and time. A related question is why people overeat when no starvation risk is evident. However, the past explains the present, and some aspects of modern life do not mesh well with our stone-age brains. It appears that eating does not entirely resolve food security concerns: the mood system looks at cues beyond eating to sense that the current situation will not lead to starvation or related mortality.

[W]e should not be surprised if the mood system sometimes mistakenly senses dangers that are not present.

In ancestral environments, obtaining food often involved considerable risk and effort. Therefore, it was highly adaptive to have a buffer against the risk of starvation and related threats, one that humans provided each other through sharing…The danger of being expelled as a group member may explain the feelings of worthlessness often reported by people experiencing depression.

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