Pizza Talk: Steve Gaulin -Good Fat / Bad Fat 2.0: A worsening dietary mismatch with dramatic effects on cognitive function

Event Date: 

Friday, February 13, 2015 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • HSSB 2001A

Abstract:  Rapid environmental change can cause adaptive mismatch and dietary mismatches may explain some chronic disease patterns in Westernized populations.  Current dietary imbalances of neurologically important omega-3 and omega-6 fats are evolutionary novel and predicted to compromise brain function. We use nations as the units of analysis, the fatty acid profile of human milk as an index of omega-3/omega-6 supply (after metabolic competition between them), and average PISA performance  (three tests over the two most recent administrations) as a measure of cognitive performance. With both milk and PISA data available for 28 countries, DHA (the most neurologically important omega-3) and linoleic acid (the most abundant and hence competitive omega-6) jointly explain 48% of the variance in cognitive performance. No additional variance is explained by important socio-economic variables such as per capita gross domestic product and per-student expenditures on public education. Causes and possible solutions to this dietary mismatch will be discussed.

Professor Gaulin is a biological anthropologist with special interests in the force of sexual selection in human evolution and in evolution of psychological mechanisms.  He has several current research initiatives: the evolution of female fat metabolism and associated male mating preferences; sex differences in the human voice; sex differences in spatial cognition; and the role of immune factors in human mating.