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Outline and evaluate evolutionary explanations for food preferences.

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Outline and evaluate evolutionary explanations for food preferences When the world began human kind was primitive and people had to hunt to find food. Therefore the early human diet consisted of deer, berries, nuts and rodent size animals. As the world evolved so did our taste buds which have now been established as sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami. Each taste bud is essential for the survival of human kind. Salt is necessary in our diets for survival as without it we would dehydrate and die. There is not a large amount of salt within the human diet because it can lead to high blood pressure and other associated health risks. Fessler (2003) assumed salt was so essential that humans are expected to have a uniform preference for salty foods and natural selection would have removed these differences. However, there are differences in salt preference which he explains by references to the fact that high salt intake protects against sudden dehydration. ...read more.


The ability to distinguish bitter tastes is developed as an evolutionary mechanism to protect early humans from eating poisonous plants. Plants are more likely than animals to contain toxins because they produce a variety of toxic compounds in order to protect themselves from being eaten. Herbivores have fewer bitter taste genes than omnivores or carnivores because avoiding bitter plants would considerably limit their food sources. Now humans have evolved bitter and sour foods are more palatable but not so much so to children. It has been found that humans have 30 genes that code for bitter taste receptors. Each receptor can interact with several compounds allowing people to taste a wide variety of bitter substances. Research by Menella found that children reject bitter food due to basic biology. 900 people aged 5-50 were tested by being given bitter foods and found that children were more sensitive to bitter food than adults. ...read more.


This extreme diversity in human diets between cultures suggests than the evolutionary is not a satisfactory theory in explaining human food preferences. The evolutionary explanation also explains the taste aversion and medicine effect theories. Taste aversion is when a person finds that they may have had a very bad effect from some food that they have eaten and because of this they learn to always avoid that food now associating it with the bad experience. Seligman (1970) claimed that different species evolved different learning abilities which he called biological preparedness. This natural selection of differential learning occurred so that each species has the ability to learn certain associations more easily than others, particularly those that helps individuals survive. The medicine effect is the opposite of the taste aversion theory. It states that one can learn a particular food preference is they have had a good experience when eating it for example if a person was ill with a sore throat and they had a hot drink and their throat felt better they may believe that if they ever have a sore throat drinking that hot drink will cure it. ...read more.

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