Too Much of a Good Thing | Lee Goldman

Summary of: Too Much of a Good Thing: How Four Key Survival Traits Are Now Killing Us
By: Lee Goldman


Delve into the fascinating world of ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’, exploring how evolutionarily advantageous traits like hunger, thirst, fear, and blood clotting are now posing challenges in our modern lives. This book summary will illuminate how our once helpful survival traits have become maladaptive in the rapidly changing environment we’ve constructed. Get ready to understand why we face difficulties such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and mental health issues, as well as what can be done to combat these problems. Embrace this insightful journey into human evolution, the challenges of our present times, and the potential solutions.

Survival of the Fittest: Adapting to a Modern Environment

Over 200,000 years of natural selection has allowed humans to adapt to their environment. However, the rapid changes caused by modernization have made it difficult for humans to maintain their health. Scientists propose three possibilities for the survival of the human race in an environment that is evolving faster than human biology. The first scenario is that humans will continue to develop diseases that affect their ability to reproduce, leading to the extinction of the species. The second scenario is that people will embrace healthy habits to maintain their health despite the environment; however, this is often effective for only a few dedicated individuals. The third option is the use of science to develop medications, surgeries, and genetic modifications to combat environmental changes. While human genes have evolved to cope with inconsistent food availability and threats from animals, modern times have introduced a new host of problems, such as the almost unlimited availability of high-caloric foods. Meanwhile, clotting blood, once a survival advantage, has become a disadvantage due to medical advancements. The challenge for humans is to harness their ingenuity to adapt and thrive in a world they are rapidly changing.

Maladaptive Adaptations

Natural selection has given humans protective adaptations that are now maladaptive in the face of modern lifestyle. With the recent rapid changes in living conditions, our genes are ill-suited for the environment. A prime example is the Pima Indians who experienced a meteoric rise in obesity and diabetes due to a sedentary lifestyle and high-caloric foods. While growing reliance on medication and surgery shouldn’t be dismissed as moral weakness, it’s important to recognize them as necessary in our modern world.

Caloric Needs and the Modern Human Appetite

The ubiquity and variety of modern food leads to overeating and obesity, a problem that stems from our ancestral survival mechanisms. Humans developed mechanisms to encourage a large appetite in times of plenty and discourage weight loss when calories are scarce. When food was abundant, our ancestors ate plenty to store calories for the inevitable times when food was scarce. Today, we crave variety to ensure we satisfy our nutritional needs, but this desire to overeat persists even when we are full. As a result, obese people in the US cost an average of $1,400 more ($150 million total) per year in health care costs. To combat obesity and diabetes, research supports various tips for weight loss including using smaller bowls and serving utensils, pairing a new healthy habit with something you enjoy, and writing a specific plan for your exercise routine.

The Endurance Advantage

Humans have an advantage over most animals in endurance due to their thermo-regulating ability. This allowed early humans to hunt for meat tirelessly, and their ability to conserve and regulate salt and water helped them to stave off dehydration. However, modern food industries have capitalized on our natural cravings for salt, sugar, and fat, causing a diet high in sodium that results in high blood pressure. A low-salt diet for a sustained period can adjust these cravings and lead to a healthier lifestyle.

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