Global Health Crisis Caused by the Collision of Biological and Cultural Evolution: Pre-Natal Influences on Acute and Chronic Diseases in Later Life

James Edward Trosko


In the context of finite global resources for sustained healthy human survival, population explosion, increased environmental pollution, decreased clean air, water, food distribution, diminishing opportunities for human self-esteem, increased median life span, and interconnected causes of acute infectious and chronic diseases, the need to understand the factors leading to human diseases will be necessary for both the long term prevention and for managing short-term crises heath problems. The transition of our pre-human nutritional requirements for survival to our current unequal and culturally- shaped diet has created a biologically mismatched human dietary experience. While genetic, gender, and developmental stage factors contribute to human diseases, various environmental and culturally-determined factors are now contributing to both acute and chronic diseases. The transition from the hunter-gatherer to an agricultural -dependent human being has brought about a global crisis in human health.  Initially, early humans ate seasonally-dependent and calorically-restricted foods, during the day, in a “feast or famine†manner. Today,  modern humans eat diets of  caloric abundance, at all times of the day, with foods of all seasons and from all parts of the world, that have been processed and which have been contaminated by all kinds of factors. No longer can one view, as distinct, infectious agent –related human acute diseases from chronic diseases. Given the predicted increase in the number of new births before the end of this century, a serious effort must be made to provide a healthy in utero environment for the most vulnerable stage of human development in order to prevent alterations in organ-specific adult stem cell numbers and stem cell –based diseases later in life. This new concept provides a mechanistic explanation for how pre-natal maternal environmental or dietary exposures can now affect diseases later in life (Barker Hypothesis). 


Barker hypothesis; prenatal development; “metabolic diseases”; biological evolution; cultural evolution; food safety

Full Text:



Arjamaa, O. Vuorisalo, T. (2010): Gene-cultural co-evolution and the human diet. American Scientist 98: 140-147.

Appleman, P. (1976): An Essay on the Principles of Population by Thomas Robert Malthus, Text, Sources, and Background Criticism, Edited by P. Appleman, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1976

Barker D. J. ( 2004): The developmental origins of adult disease. J Am Coll Nutr 236: 588s–595s.

Barker, D., Barker, M., Flemming, Lampl, M. (2013): Support mothers to secure future public health. Nature 209: 209-211.

Carson, R. (1962): Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Chretien, J.-P. (2011): U S Global Health Strategy. JAMA 305: 1238-1239.

Claesson, M.J., Jeffeery, I.B., Conde, S., Power, S.E., O’Connor, E.M., Cusack, S., Harris, H.M.B., Coakley, M., Lakshminarayanan, B., O’Sullivan, O., Fitzgerald, G.F., Deane, J., O’Connor, M., Harnedy, N., O’Connor, K., O’Mahoney, D., van Sinderen, D., Wallace, M., Breenan, L., Stanton, C., Marchesi, J.R., Fitzgerald, A.P., Shanahan, F., Hill, C., Ross, R.P., O’Toole, P.W. ( 2012): Gut micro biota composition correlates with diet and health in the elderly. Nature 488:178-84.

Commoner, B. (1971): The Closing Circle: Nature, Man and Technologyâ€. Knopf, N.Y.

Cordain, L., Miller, J.B., Eaton, S.B., Mann, N., Holt, S.H.A., Speth, J.D. (2000): Plant-animal subsistence ratios and micronutrient energy estimates in worldwide hunter-gather diets. Am.J. Clin. Nutr., 71: 682-692.

Daar, A.S., Singer, P.A., Persad, D.L., Pramming, S.M., Matthews, D.R., Beaglehole, R., Berstein, A., Borysiewicz, L.K., Colagiuri, S., Ganguly, N., Glass, R.I., Finegood, D.T., Koplan, J., Nabel, E.G., Sarna, G., Sarrafzadegan, N., Smith, R., Yach, D., Bell, J. ( 2007): Grand challenges in chronic non-commmunicable diseases. Nature 450: 494-496.

Diamond, J. (1997): Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton & Company, New York.

Dubos, R. (1968): So Human An Animal. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.

Enborg, V.K. (2009): Food Humanity, Habitat and How we get to 2050. New York Times.[].

Ezenwa, V.O., Gerardo, N.M., Inouye, D.W., Medina, M., Xavier, J.B. (2012): Animal behavior and the micro biome. Science 338: 198-199.

Ezzati, M., Riboli, E. (2012): Can Noncommunicable diseases be prevented? Lessons from studies of populations and individuals. Science 337:1482-1487.

Flusserr, V. (1974): Walls. Main Currents in Modern Thought. 30: 136-138.

Hardin, G. (1968): Tragedy of the Commons, Science 162: 1243-1248.

Hashmi, A., Soomro, J.A., Iqbal, Z., Soomro, T.K., Saleem, K. (2012): Maternal obesity a global health problem and its implications on maternal and fetal health. Reproductive Sys. Sexual Discord 1: 1-4.

Helbing, D. (2013): Globally networked risks and how to respond. Nature 497: 51-59.

Hutchins, R. M. (1936): The Higher Learning in America, In: M. Otto, The Human Enterprise, Yale University Press. p.107.

Kiple, K.F., ed. (2000): The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press.

Leopold, A. (1949): The land ethic. In: A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press, Inc. New York.

MacPherson, D.W., Gushulak, B.D. (2001): Human mobility and population health. Perspectives Biol. Med. 44: 390-401.

Mariani-Costantini, A. (2000): Natural and cultural influences on the evolution of the human diet: Background of the multifactorial processes that shaped the eating habits of Western societies. Nutrition 16: 483-486.

McMichael, P. (2001): The impact of globalization, free trade and technology on food and nutrition in the new millennium. Proc. Nutrition Soc. 60: 215-2220.

Milton, K. (2000): Back to basics: Why foods of wild primates have relevance for modern human health. Nutrition, 16: 480-483.

McCully, K.S. (2001): The significance of wheat in the Dakota Territory, human evolution, civilization and degenerative diseases. Perspectives Biol. Med. 44: 52-61.

Myers, S.S., Gaffikin, L., Golden, C.D., Ostfeld, R.S., Redford, K. H. Redford, Ricketts, T.H., Turner, W.R., Osofsky, S.A. (2013): Human Health impacts of ecosystem alteration. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110:18753-18760.

Nassiri, R. (2013): One health approach roadmap: A university perspective. One Health: One Planet, One Future. 2nd GRF One Health Summit 2013, Davos, Switzerland, p.62-63.

O’Rahilly, S. (2009): Human genetics illuminates the paths to metabolic disease. Nature 462: 307-314.

Otto, M. (1940): The Human Enterprise. Crofts and Sons, New York.

Pang, T., Daulaire, N., Keusch, G., Leke, R., Piot, P., Reddy, S., Rys, A., Szlezak, N. (2010): The new age of global health governance holds promise. Nature Medicine 16: 1181.

Potter, V.P. (1971): Bioethics: Bridge to the Future; Prentice –Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Potter, V.R. (1988): Global Bioethics: Building on the Leopold Legacy, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, Michigan.

Potter, V.R. (1995): Global Bioethics: Converting sustainable development to global survival. Medicine & Global Survival 2: 185-191.

Potter, V. R. (1974): The Tragedy of the Sahel Commons. Science 185: 813.

Ray, L.B. ( 2009): Evolution of Metabolic Diseases. Sci. Signal. 2: ec396.

Rosset, P. (2011): Preventing hunger: Change economic policy. Nature 479: 472-473.

Sagan, C. (1995): The Demon- Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark , Random House, New York.

Snow, C.P. (1959): The Two Cultures. Cambridge University Press, London.

Sonnenburg, J L. (2010): Genetic pot luck. Nature 464: 837-838.

Stewart, P. (1964): Supreme Court opinion on obscenity, concurring in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 US 184.

Swinberg, B.A., Sacks, G., Hall, K.D., McPherson, K., Finegood, D.T., Moodie, M.L., Gortmaker, S.L., (2011). The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. The Lancet 378: 804-814.

Teaford, M.F., Ungar, P.S., (2000). Diet and the evolution of the earliest human ancestors. Proc.Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 97: 13506-13511.

Tremaroli, V., Backhed, F. (2012): Functional interactions between the gut micro biota and host metabolism. Nature 489: 242-249.

Trosko, J.E. (1984): Scientific views of human nature : Implications for the ethics of technological intervention. In: The Culture of Biomedicine. D. Heywood Brock, ed., University of Delaware Press, Newark, New Jersey.

Trosko, J.E. (2003): Scientific concepts of human nature and their implications to bioethics in a scientific and technologically-altered world. J. International Soc. Bioethics 9: 68-83.

Trosko, J.E. (2007a): Stem cells and cell-cell communication in the understanding of the role of diet and nutrition in human diseases. J. Food Hygiene & Safety 22: 1-14.

Trosko, J.E. (2007b): Aging as the ‘Systems’ breakdown of communication between the quality and quantity of stem cells. In : The Manefesto for a Long Life [ Il Manifesto Della Lunga Vita]. Marandola, P. & Marotta, F., eds., Sperling & Kupfer Editori S.p.A, Milan, Italy, pp. 58-62.

Trosko J.E. (2008): Role of diet and nutrition on the alteration of the quality and quantity of stem cells in human aging and the diseases of aging. Curr. Pharm. Des. 14: 2707-2718.

Trosko, J.E. , Suzuki, K. (2009): Adult stem cells, the Barker Hypothesis, epigenetic events and low level radiation effects. In: Radiation Health Risk Sciences. Nakashima, M., Takamura, N., Tsukasaki, K., Nagayama, Y., Yamashita, S., eds., Springer Publisher, Tokyo, pp. 216-226.

Trosko, J.E., Tai, M.H. (2006): Adult stem cell theory of the multi-stage, multi-mechanism theory of carcinogenesis: Role of Inflammation on the promotion of initiated stem cells. In: Infection and Inflammation: Impacts on Oncogenesis. Dittmar,T., Zaenker, K.S. Schmidt, A. Eds. Karger, Basel, 2006, pp. 45- 65.

Wilking, M., Ndiaye, M., Mukhtar, H., Ahmad, N.(2013): Circadian rhythm connections to oxidative stress: Implications for human health. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 19: 192-208.

Wrangham, R., (2012). The evolution of human nutrition. Current Biology 23: 354-355.

Yach, D., Leeder, S.R., Bell, J., Krstnasamy, B., (2005). Global Chronic Diseases. Science 307: 317.

Yatsunenko, T., Rey, F.E., Manary, M.J., Trehan, I., Dominguez-Bello, M.G., Contreras, M., Magris,M., Hidalgo, G.,Baldassano, R.N., Anokhin, A.P., Health, A.C., Warner, B., Reeder, J., Kuczynski, J., CaporasoJ.G., Lozupone, C.A., Lauber, C., Clemente, J.C., Knights, D., Knight, R., Gordon, J.I. (2012): Human gut micro biome viewed across age and geography. Nature 486: 222- 227.