A Biogeography of Human Diet and Drugs

Alexander H. Harcourt

in Human Biogeography

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780520272118
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520951778 | DOI:
A Biogeography of Human Diet and Drugs

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Our diet affects our physiology. People who can drink milk as adults have evolved different physiologies from those who cannot. The same is true of people who live on starch. Only the Japanese can digest seaweed, again for essentially the same reason, namely adaptation. Peoples from different regions are differently susceptible to a variety of drugs, including alcohol. Genetic differences underlie several of the contrasting susceptibilities, but the degree to which this variation is due to adaptation or chance mutation still has to be determined. Arctic peoples' ability to eat amounts of fat that would probably make others ill is explained not by genes, but by a lifetime of a fatty diet, along with, in the past, a healthy lifestyle.

Keywords: Arctic; diet; drugs; Eskimo; fat; Inuit; Japanese; lactase; milk; seaweed; starch

Chapter.  4277 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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