Nutritional Ecology and Human Health

Annu Rev Nutr. 2016 Jul 17:36:603-26. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071715-051118. Epub 2016 Jun 1.


In contrast to the spectacular advances in the first half of the twentieth century with micronutrient-related diseases, human nutrition science has failed to stem the more recent rise of obesity and associated cardiometabolic disease (OACD). This failure has triggered debate on the problems and limitations of the field and what change is needed to address these. We briefly review the two broad historical phases of human nutrition science and then provide an overview of the main problems that have been implicated in the poor progress of the field with solving OACD. We next introduce the field of nutritional ecology and show how its ecological-evolutionary foundations can enrich human nutrition science by providing the theory to help address its limitations. We end by introducing a modeling approach from nutritional ecology, termed nutritional geometry, and demonstrate how it can help to implement ecological and evolutionary theory in human nutrition to provide new direction and to better understand and manage OACD.

Keywords: ecology; evolution; human nutrition; nutritional geometry.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation
  • Biological Evolution
  • Biomedical Research / methods
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Environmental Medicine / history*
  • Environmental Medicine / methods
  • Environmental Medicine / trends
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Health Transition
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Studies / trends
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / therapy
  • Nutritional Sciences / history*
  • Nutritional Sciences / methods
  • Nutritional Sciences / trends
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Public Health Practice
  • Social Environment
  • Systems Biology / methods
  • Systems Biology / trends
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / methods
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / trends