Scientific American recently posted a fascinating article on the origins of obesity. As it turns out, our ability to store fat, as opposed to our neanderthal cousins stronger inclination to muscularity, is one of the key reasons why we get to go look at them in museums instead of things being the other way around.
Not unlike modern day bodybuilders, neanderthals had a diet which was very high in protein, almost exclusively meat in fact. This fact, combined with the exercise they got hunting and killing animals, often at close range, meant that they developed very muscular physiques, but also that they had extremely high calorie requirements (around 4000 calories per day).
Our modern human ancestors on the other hand, had a much more varied diet, which meant that when the Ice Age reached it’s peak, and meat became more scarce, we were better suited to adapt and survive than the neanderthals were and most importantly, were more able to store fat, meaning we were less seriously affected by the decrease in available calories.
Unfortunately for the neanderthals, natural selection actually favoured the survival of the fattest. The ability to store fat was a huge evolutionary advantage during times where food availability was unstable. Now things are a lot less unstable for most of us though, this same genetic trait has become the driving force behind the motorised scooter. So although natural selection did once favour the survival of the fattest, let’s not get carried away during the Christmas season eh? If food get’s short, someone’s already got your back.
Source: Scientific American