Allergies and Tolerances

I have included this in the major problems facing the world as there is a general move towards science informing or persuading the population that certain foods are bad for them. What a creature has as a food supply defines how they operate and how they develop. Some foods are hard to tolerate and some are not, with the effects varying from person to person from not at all, to fatal. But there is a big difference between food tolerances, intolerances and allergies.

The idea that anything that causes an intolerance is bad has developed in modern society, but the food we eat has an evolutionary effect on us. Normally the evolutionary progression is inedible, through intolerance, developing into tolerances, then food of choice.

But we must be cautious about backing ourselves into a corner of extinction by removing things unnecessarily from the diet.

We have a progression into increasing numbers of allergies where foods can cause major effects and damage, and a fashion trend for removing certain things from our diet. Nuts are a major cause of allergy, so nut consumption has reduced over the decades meaning more people are now intolerant of these things. Lactose is steadily being removed from the diet, allowing for greater intolerances, similarly with gluten.

A small minority are nut, lactose or gluten intolerant, in that consumption will cause them harm, the toleration for more processed foods expanding higher fat and sugar becoming more tolerated and less of a problem except in people being overweight.

But removal of nuts, lactose or gluten has the effect on present and subsequent populations in that many are now becoming intolerant due to lack of exposure. So, if we have the condition where other foods are not available, you will find they will have severe problems in using them. A progression that may end up with people being totally unable to eat them, removing the diversity of diet if things go really wrong and food supplies are limited.

This may be true for other foods such as meat, a move to remove meat from the diets allowing for meat intolerances to develop, so a population evolving that could not tolerate meat easily without problems, then leading onto a population that could not eat meat.

Imagine a society that cannot not eat any animal product, nuts, or gluten. An ideal philosophy in times of plenty. It has also removed a lot of fat, sugar and salt. Then problems strike and food becomes scarce, as it has happened many times in the past, and will happen again. The population then has to turn to other foods, requiring a fully functioning society to produce them, but it can’t handle any of the other foods.

An example of this is the Giant Panda. It is a bear that has specialised in eating a very narrow band of foods that very few other creatures consume. This very narrow band at the moment is quite plentiful in a particular area they are found, but disease, pests or climate change means that this specialisation, although good at present, makes them a prime target for extinction. If the climate does change its very likely that there will be no giant pandas in 100 years’ time, having backed themselves into an evolutionary corner. The average cost to keep a giant panda around works out to about £500,000 per bear for its 20-year lifetime, compared to £10,000 for a humans 72 years.

Climate change may mean they are the first to fail. By such specialisations the human race seems to be backing itself into a similar evolutionary dead end with its options closed down by choice.