Monday, December 10, 2007
Score one for the gathers
History, as we know, was written by the guys with the spears. Or by their male descendants, at least. In the past, when scientists thought about our hunting/gathering forebearers, they thought mainly about the hunters. The gals back at home gathering roots and tubers so the kids could eat every day (as opposed to a meal of hunted mammoth once a month) didn't seem to count for much. But a new study (published in Nature Genentics) tells us that the thing that makes us what we are today (the value of which we'll debate at another time), the size of our brains, is a direct result of the gatherers. Humans produce a protein in our saliva that breaks down starch into glucose. The human brain runs on glucose. So it was those insignificant gatherering moms, feeding their kids on starches, day in and day out, that enabled the human brain to grow and us to become human.
Which throws into even starker contrast than usual, the true value vs. the societal valuation of the nurturer. I'm also absolutely certain that it was, and still is, not only those actual tubers and roots that contributed to human development, but also the emotional tubers and roots - the hugs, the cossetting, the crooning to sleep - those early mothers gave, and that we give still. And finally, this new study also makes me understand that here is a good reason I eat ice cream when I'm stressed and have to sort things out. ice cream=starch=brain food. Yay!!!