Voices from the Past


As New York City gets ready to implement its ban on big sodas, the issue of obesity once again takes center stage.

We’ve heard from nutrition experts, soda corporations, consumer agencies, politicians and Joe Schmo about whether we should have a tax and if it will do any good. But why do we crave all these bad-for-you foods in the first place?

Turns out it’s partly evolution’s fault. Our prehistoric, hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have regular access to high-energy foods, so when it was available, they gorged on it. Think ice-cream-binge-after-being-dumped kind of gorging. Only instead of ice cream, they feasted on animals they were able to hunt, and fruit and nuts that were in season. Those high calorie binges helped fuel their big brains. But today, we have access to far more sugar and fat than our bodies need, which can lead to overindulgence and obesity.

This link between how our species evolved and the foods we crave today is explored in our new exhibition, The Evolution – Health Connection, which is open through June. Along with obesity, The Evolution – Health Connection also looks at the evolutionary reasons behind some other very human problems: painful childbirths, sunburns, lactose intolerance and back problems.

So the next time that little voice in your head says that you need a soda and fries, resist! Stand firm! Distract yourself! Because after all, it’s just your ancestors talking.