Dear Students, please find below next appointment for "Meeting & Conferences 19/20":  WEDNESDAY February 5, 2020   Laura Longo - Molecular Gastronomy and Human Evolution: The Recipe for Success for Homo sapiens

with Laura Longo


Food is a good metaphor for the past and present complexity of human dietary habits and survival strategies, whose comprehension demands a transdisciplinary approach, merging questions and methodologies in order to pursue innovative understanding and overcome the negative side effects of disciplinary specialization. New insights from nano-resolved techniques applied to the study of dietary strategies throughout human evolution are bringing to the forefront under-represented foodstuffs, radically changing our perception of the role played by food in making us the only human species alive on the globe.

This talk will touch upon the dietary strategies relevant for human evolution, highlighting the molecular, biological and behavioral adjustments that have represented crucial evolutionary adaptations to ever-changing environmental conditions. The roles played by foods of plant and animal origin will be presented and special emphasis will be given to the conditions that brought Homo sapiens to colonize a new nutriotope that I have named the Starch Food Niche.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, carbohydrates entered our diet well before the Neolithic Period and crop domestication, and their role in making Homo sapiens a very successful species will be explained based on the interplay between genes and culture. The colonization of a new nutriotope matches another classic example of co-evolution between genes and culture, lactase persistence. The ability to digest milk in adulthood only arrived quite recently in certain populations as a response to the domestication of milk-producing animals.

Therefore two of the main food sources—carbohydrates and milk—can be used as staples in many ethnic cousins due to the positive selection of genes, behavior and environment. In the last decade, genomics and proteomics have revealed their capacity to disentangle the evolutionary interplay of food availability, metabolism and behavior and their vital potential to tackle the origins of the nutritional mismatch among present human populations. The evolutionary perspective underpinning the Starch Food Niche model holds promise for understanding the origins of diet-related diseases and sheds light on the adoption of sustainable nutritional strategies, ecosystem preservation and the management of diseases of civilization.