Will evolution solve the obesity problem?

(Stacey) #1

I’ve read that lactase persistence developed as humans started drinking non-human milk.
First world diets often include a lot of processed/high calorie/chemical laden foods - will humans evolve to be better able to metabolise these types of foods?

(Henry Stoddard) #2

I feel that a scientist in biology would have to consider that question. I am a linguist; therefore, I cannot consider myself in the right position to answer. I can express my view; however. As a historian, I can say that various problems have occurred and changed through time. I can also say that some problems have not and needed the intervention of God’s gift to humanity, i.e., medical science. Obesity has been around before. Just look at the famous and cruel King Henry VIII of England and Ireland. Medical science is the key here with God’s help.

(George Brooks) #3

There’s not much evolutionary pressure on the human gene pool when we can all get affordable lactose-free milk products, or supplements to help digest lactose.


(Stacey) #4

Thankyou for your reply @Henry : )

Medical science in conjunction with lifestyle changes are certainly very effective!
I’m interested in understanding a bit more about evolution - we started drinking milk and our bodies adapted. Does it follow that if we start eating junk food our bodies will adapt?

(George Brooks) #5

Stacey? Really?

  1. it takes millions of years;
  2. junk food has to remain easy to obtain; and
  3. medical science has to disappear … so that survival is more closely connected to what we eat, rather than what the doctors can’t cure.


(Stacey) #6


Haha, yes really - I’m still learning! :smiley:

  1. Apparently lactase persistence happened quite quickly, over thousands of years - but point taken.
  2. I don’t see why it wouldn’t?
  3. From the very little I think I know, can’t a lot of diseases be traced back to poor diet/lifestyle choices? Aren’t patients routinely advised to change their diet as part of treatment? (My sister is a dietitian in a hospital).

(Stacey) #7


These products weren’t available thousands of years ago - I’m not sure how this is relevant, what am I missing?

(George Brooks) #8

What are you missing?

You are trying to compare the rate of evolution during a time when hunger was a critical limiting factor a life form with low levels of technology and complete dependence on the fortunes of weather and harvesting.

So naturally, ecological and survival factors were able to work quickly - - and without remorse.

How does this compare today? When even woman who used to regularly die in childbirth, are assisted in birth, to produce a brand new generation of women who will ALSO have problems in birth.

Instead of Lactase tolerance, we should be asking how the human ability to have natural births without medical assistance may affect the human gene pool.



That is a good point. The enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, is available for purchase OTC. (One brand is lactaid.) And there are good non-dairy milk substitutes available since veganism is on the rise. So lactase persistence might be increasing, but it might not become fixed in human populations.

(Henry Stoddard) #10

I agree that any such thing would take time; however, I believe that God can intervene any time he wishes to speed up the evolutionary process. We all need to remember there is the natural as well as the miraculous. God can speed up changes if he wishes. As you can tell, I am not Darwinian. Theistic Evolution is the best paradigm in my opinion. It is not a mindless concept as Charles Darwin would have taught. You may not want to answer these questions; however, I hope you do. What is your religious background and what type of science were you taught in school? Did you go to a school that taught some other view of creation? Have a nice day and God bless.

(Henry Stoddard) #11

That is a wise answer, beaglelady. King Henry VIII, an ancestral great-granduncle of mine through Catherine Tudor of Berain, was overweight; however, he did not have potato chips and the like. But he did have cakes and did do much eating and wine drinking. I believe the weight problem has been around a long time and could have something to do with DNA as well. I believe Henry had diabetes too, and I am afraid medical science did not have this knowledge in the sixteenth century.


I am an Episcopalian. I am a member of a really good Episcopal church in NYC. When I can’t get into the city I attend a very good Evangelical church. I’m fortunate in that I was raised in a top area and always had very good public schools. Science classes taught science. I still live in the same town I grew up in.


I believe that having a great abundance of food, as many of us in the U.S. have, is relatively new in our evolutionary history. Also, most of us no longer have internal parasites sapping away what we eat. So we are like animals–if we see food we want to eat it. But now we have an abundance of food that leads to obesity.

(Henry Stoddard) #14

I agree with you. You are a nice person. My wife and I live in Hampton Roads, Virginia. I have not been to New York in many years. I am part New York Dutch. I am related to the Van Pelt family formerly of New Utrecht. Madeline Astor, wife of John Jacob Astor who died on the Titanic in 1912, was a distant cousin to my grandmother, Essie Cowan Miller. As you know, I am a Southern Baptist, but I have been a Lutheran-Missouri Synod, United Methodist, and an American Baptist. I suppose I am getting away from science. I have had contact with the New York Dutch Society and my cousin, Patrick Van Pelt, was once its president. Oh, I wish to mention that our talk on the other forum topic was very interesting. I look forward to many more discussions on science and faith with you and all the others. Take care and God bless.

(Stacey) #15


I’m not trying to compare rates of evolution. I’m asking questions to try and better understand the mechanisms of evolution.

Are you sayinng that under these conditions, yes our digestive systems would adapt to a junk food diet?

That would be an interesting study. But I don’t see why that prohibits me from asking about the evolution of the human digestive system.

(Steve Schaffner) #16

If a junk food diet significantly reduces the ability to reproduce, then yes, adaptive mutations to compensate would be selected for; that is, they would be more likely to increase in frequency. That doesn’t guarantee that the necessary mutations would occur (or even be possible), or that they actually would become common. But it does make it more likely than chance.


If you’re Dutch then you would love Tarrytown in New York State where Washington Irving lived. His lovely estate on the Hudson River, Sunnyside, has been restored and is a great place to visit.

Read about Sunnyside here

(Henry Stoddard) #18

I will be happy to read this. I am British, Belgian, Dutch, Ulster Irish, Palatine Irish ,German and French. The Palatine Irish came originally from Germany. That was my mother’s family. The ones directly from Germany to America were also my mother’s family. The history I gave you about my father’s and mother’s families are 100% true. You would be surprised about my father’s family. To give you two examples, look up Richard R. Miller and Ralph Wolfe Cowan on the internet under their names. They are my cousins and are both artists. I hope you will look it up.

Your friend,

Charles Miller

Post Scriptum: I would love to go there. That would be a great trip for Nancy and me. :grinning: I have seen the movie “Sleeping Hollow” with Johnny Depp in 1999, and Nancy did not want to see it.

(Henry Stoddard) #19

I feel we need to change our fast food diets in North America too. Fast food restaurants tend to offer things that have a lot of calories. This needs to be changed. Is that also a problem in Australia where you live? Our bodies can adapt; however, that would take generations unless God intervenes and causes the process to speed up. That is possible according to my Baptist faith. I wish to thank you for joining.

(Stacey) #20

Hi @Henry,
I don’t think fast food is as big a problem in Aust as in the US. We’ve had a chain open recently called Olivers which is ‘fast’ but healthy food. One of their signs says ‘Would you like beans with that?’ and then has a picture of green beans in a red cardboard cup which you’d usually see holding french fries.
My background is that I’ve been raised Baptist and attended a private Christian school. None of my tertiary education involved the sciences (I studied business). Evolution was actually a non-issue to me (I had no idea how widely accepted the theory was, or how much evidence there was for it & I had summarily dismissed it) until Creation Ministries visited our church and I bought some books by Ken Ham and Jonathan Sarfati. Up until recently they were the only literature I’d read about evolutionary theory, (so @gbrooks9 I’m sorry - my questions must be the equivalent of ‘what shape is yellow?’ - thanks for bearing with me). It was actually a post on Facebook stating that ‘there could not be a God in light of all the evidence for evolution’ that made me question whether God and evolution were in fact incompatible. The issue seemed doubly relevant as my son is entering high school this year, and he will be taught evolution as part of the curriculum. Googling some of my questions brought me to Biologos, which has answered a lot of them!