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The Driving Force: Food in Evolution and the Future by Michael Crawford and David Marsh (1989) Heinemann. Paperback Mandarin Non Fiction/Science (1991)
Reviewed by Colin Leakey Ph.D (Cantab) C.Biol, FSB, Visiting Professor of Biology, University of Lincoln
This book sets out to present an important and novel approach to human evolution. Daring to do this was brave in the face of entrenched beliefs and attitudes of the evolutionary and anthropological establishments where controversy in these fields of science was already normal and notorious. Sir Solly Zuckerman who outraged many for his supposing that ape sexual behaviour in caged zoo animals was a useful guide to understanding behaviour in the wild, nevertheless usefully set up the Nuffield Institute of Comparative Medicine. As a result biochemist Crawford found himself in 1960 practically the only competent biochemist in early post-independance Uganda with research projects both in human nutrition and that of feline predators and their prey. Others around him were studying infant malnutrition ? a curse of tropical Africa then and sadly still now on the one hand and why ,as John Rivers, a medic, had pointed out, lion carnivores seem smarter and more artful that zebras and their other herbivore prey. Professor Pierre Budowski also seminally introduced to our authors the realisation that two different ?families? of essential fatty acids, now known as Omega 3?s and Omega 6?s, are both needed for the proper development of the brain. Much of the content of this book is spent on exploring the possible significance of seafood, fish and shellfish providing better sources of Omega 3?s than land-based foods. This idea chimed well with the apparent high intelligence of marine mammals such as dolphins on a high Omega 3 diet and on our human species of modern man having perhaps colonised many parts of the tropical world by migrating along sea shores -another modern resurrection of an old idea. Our authors wisely go short however of the extreme position of fully endorsing the well known hypothesis of Hardy?s marine origin of mankind or descent from Homo aquaticus.
David Marsh?s contribution is clearly more concerned with rehearsing the alternative viewpoints of the evolutionists. Michael Crawford?s with the biochemistry and developmental physiological ramifications of the importance of different fats in human diet. Evolution from marine mammals is perhaps something of a dead dolphin in the water. The significance of different fats and their component fatty acids in diet is, on the other hand , an area of study and significant importance that has expanded enormously until now, since the publication of this book and substantial scientific papers written at about the same time by Michael Crawford and his associates. This is a much more important issue than a butter versus margarine war. Any internet search will quickly place this little quoted book and its publication date as having been an unrecognised landmark publication.
As the concept of Plasticity of the brain with Epigenetic Nurture interacting with hard-wired Nature comes into fashion, with the ability to elaborate brain capability depending on smart neural connections being supportable biochemically via diet, some may wonder whether the Nobel committee may have been sleeping over the Michael Crawford?s 1989 story of the Omegas and its forerunners and sequentials.
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