How Western Diet And Lifestyle Drive The Pandemic Of Obesity And Civilization Diseases

Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2019 Oct 24:12:2221-2236. doi: 10.2147/DMSO.S216791. eCollection 2019.


Westernized populations are plagued by a plethora of chronic non-infectious degenerative diseases, termed as "civilization diseases", like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer's disease and many more, diseases which are rare or virtually absent in hunter-gatherers and other non-westernized populations. There is a growing awareness that the cause of this amazing discrepancy lies in the profound changes in diet and lifestyle during recent human history. This paper shows that the transition from Paleolithic nutrition to Western diets, along with lack of corresponding genetic adaptations, cause significant distortions of the fine-tuned metabolism that has evolved over millions of years of human evolution in adaptation to Paleolithic diets. With the increasing spread of Western diet and lifestyle worldwide, overweight and civilization diseases are also rapidly increasing in developing countries. It is suggested that the diet-related key changes in the developmental process include an increased production of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress, development of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, low-grade inflammation and an abnormal activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the renin-angiotensin system, all of which play pivotal roles in the development of diseases of civilization. In addition, diet-related epigenetic changes and fetal programming play an important role. The suggested pathomechanism is also able to explain the well-known but not completely understood close relationship between obesity and the wide range of comorbidities, like type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, etc., as diseases of the same etiopathology. Changing our lifestyle in accordance with our genetic makeup, including diet and physical activity, may help prevent or limit the development of these diseases.

Keywords: diabetes; insulin hypersecretion; metabolic syndrome; obesity; oxidative stress; paleolithic diet; pathogenesis.