Humanity is at an evolutionary paradox — neither able to keep pace with man-made changes to the environment nor able to control constantly evolving pests and diseases, a leading paedetrician and scientist of New Zealand said Friday.
“On the one hand some pathogens, cancers and pests are evolving faster than our ability to treat or control them; on the other, valued species including humans are evolving too slowly to keep pace with the man-made changes to their environments,” said Peter Gluckman.
Gluckman was speaking as one of nine authors of an international study published Friday calling for evolutionary thinking to address societal challenges in food security, emerging diseases and biodiversity loss, Xinhua reported.
The authors argued in the online article in Science Express that inattention to evolutionary principles would lead to greater challenges such as short-lived medicines and agricultural treatments, problems that may ultimately hinder sustainable development.
Gluckman cited the rising incidents of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other non-communicable diseases that had been attributed to the growing gap between modern diets and lifestyle and those of the evolutionary past.
The most promising approaches were likely to involve large-scale public health-education initiatives promoting increased activity and diets that were lower in refined carbohydrates, said Gluckman, head of the Centre for Human Evolution, Adaptation and Disease at the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute and chief science advisor to the New Zealand Prime Minister.
However, young people needed to reduce the evolutionary mismatch before starting families, he said in a statement.
“That way, there is a greater chance of influencing the development of the next generation and ultimately reducing the burden of these diseases across the population,” said Gluckman.
“Evolutionary biology provides a number of strategies that can be applied to address threats to global health, food security and biodiversity. It is important to take long-term, collaborative approaches across all areas of biology, including biodiversity, food production and human health.”