Evolution of Taste Buds


            The evolutionary process is relatively simple; if something about ones biology helps them to survive and thrive over others, then that trait will be passed down through their DNA sequence and those without it will slowly die off. This then begs a basic question: 

How come our taste buds haven’t evolved to appreciate the taste of fruits and vegetables over sugars?

Screen shot 2010-11-12 at 1.19.06 PM

  • The answer to this question lies in our young history as a species.


            In most cases, obesity is a product of eating many foods that are unhealthy. Those with obesity have a much higher susceptibility to many illnesses such as diabetes. Since this is true, wouldn’t those with a liking for fruits and vegetables and a dislike for sugars be reproducing more leading to a decline in obesity?

            However, this is not the case, at least not yet. Only in the last couple hundred years of our history have we been able to obtain sugars whenever we get a craving. For the large majority of human history, our only natural sources came in small dosage along with whatever naturally produced food the sugars resided in (usually fruits). If we look at the problem this way, then we can make the prediction that if our eating habits continue like they have been over the last 100 years, obesity will eventually cease to exist.

The book, In Defense of Foods, Michael Pollan writes, "Sugar has it is ordinarily found in nature-in fruits and some vegetables-gives us a slow-release form of energy accompanied by minerals and all sorts of crucial micronutrients we can get nowhere else. One of the most momentous changes in the American diet since 1909 has been the increase in the percentage of calories coming from sugars, from 13 to 20 percent."

Why do we still crave sugars?

Screen shot 2010-11-12 at 1.22.25 PM

             We still crave sugars because it takes hundreds of generations to evolve. We are still in the early stages of evolution when it comes to our new agriculturally sound diet. In due time, we will probably start to enjoy all foods equally and just proportion them so that we get the correct dosage of each every day.




In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

Screen shot 2010-11-12 at 1.22.25 PM
Screen shot 2010-11-12 at 1.22.25 PM