Evolutionary health promotion: a consideration of common counterarguments

Prev Med. 2002 Feb;34(2):119-23. doi: 10.1006/pmed.2001.0966.


The proposal that Late Paleolithic (50,000-10,000 BP) ancestral experience might serve as a model for prevention research and even, if justified by experiment, as a paradigm for health promotion recommendations is sometimes discounted, before critical assessment, because of reservations based on unjustified preconceptions. Most often such biases involve comparative life expectancy, potential genetic change since agriculture, the heterogeneity of ancestral environments, and/or innate human adaptability. This paper examines these topics and attempts to show that none of them justifies a priori dismissal of the evolutionary approach to preventive medicine. Evolutionary health promotion may ultimately be invalidated because of its falsification by experiment or because another theory accords better with known facts, but these commonly held prejudices should not forestall its thoughtful consideration and investigative evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Agriculture
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • United States