Put that chicken leg down and listen up

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Put that chicken leg down and listen up


The social calendar of a typical Korean man goes something like this: Dinner with high school friends yesterday, meet Army buddies today, and an outing with the morning football club tomorrow. Men renew the bonds they once shared by going out to eat and drink their fill.

Yet these gatherings always seem to beg the question: Why do men need a night out with the boys?

Well, I’d like to propose that gatherings such as these are really only a modern expression of the ancient hunter-gatherer culture from the Stone Age, when men had to hunt in groups and get along to provide food for their families.

Unfortunately, another trait men inherited from the Stone Age is a tendency to indulge in high-calorie, high-fat food. (Today, that translates to the hamburgers and fried chicken consumed on outings.) In prehistoric times, meat was rare and only consumed after a successful hunting trip. Humans used to feed mostly on vegetables and somehow this created a strong desire for fatty food.

This age-old longing for meat must still be stamped on our genes. Today, we pursue good health in our heads but can’t seem to stop stuffing fast food into our mouths.

To explain that, I would point to the work of Jurgen Brater, who argued that fat intake interferes with the function of the hormone that signals fullness and encourages you to keep on eating.

If you were to use the energy up, you wouldn’t have a problem, but the excess calories get stored in the body. This is yet another remnant from our ancestors. In the old days, we had to consume as many nutrients as possible in case we had to skip a meal - which was a common occurrence back then. Our bodies stored the energy in case we needed it later.

The thing that helps us do this is Crtc3, which is also known as the thrifty gene. Today Crtc3 is known to cause obesity. Research done by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and published in the latest issue of Nature shows that mice lacking Crtc3 stayed slim even when eating fatty food.

These days, most of us have access to a variety of food, yet we are not free of our ancient desires. But as we watch our bellies grow fat from drinking and eating at social gatherings, we have to realize that we can’t blame our ancestors forever. At some point, we need to be responsible for our own health.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Shin Ye-ri
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