Navigation Links
Big Mac: The whole world on your plate
Date:2/5/2008

A burger and fries may be the quintessential North American meal but it can also be viewed as the perfect example of humanitys increasingly varied diet, according to researchers who have conducted a unique study of the plants used around the world for food.

In the first-ever study of the phylogenetic distribution of the human diet, University of Calgary plant evolutionary ecologist Jana Vamosi, working with a team led by Serban Proches from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, found that humans likely stand alone when it comes to the spectrum of species we consume. Our ability to process food combined with an insatiable hunger for new tastes and international trade systems has also led to food becoming the ultimate product of a globalized society.

Generally speaking, we eat very broadly from the tree of life, Vamosi said. Others have looked at the sheer number of plant species we consume but nobody has ever examined whether the plants we eat are clustered in certain branches. It turns out that they are not.

In a paper published in the current issue of the scientific journal BioScience, the researchers examined more than 7,000 plant species commonly eaten by people to determine the origins and evolutionary relationships of the various plants that comprise humankinds menu. In addition to confirming the incredible number of species that are regularly eaten, they found that we chow down on members of a remarkably high number of plant families known to biology.

As a case study, the scientists analyzed the ingredients of a simple fast food meal a McDonalds Big Mac, French fries and a cup of coffee to illustrate how the average human diet in developed nations is more diverse than ever before. From potatoes that were first domesticated in South America to mustard that was developed in India, onions and wheat that originated in the Middle East and coffee from Ethiopia, they found the meal contained approximately 20 different species and ingredients that originated around the world (see attached Backgrounder). This leads to the conclusion that a Big Mac is an apt symbol of globalization.

That a single meal contains about 20 species is impressive, given that some human societies those that are largely unaffected by current globalization trend commonly include only 50 to 100 plant species in their entire diet, the paper states.

Vamosi says the study raises myriad questions about the diversity and nutritional aspects of the human diet that will be the subject of future investigations.

Certainly, including many fruits and vegetables in your diet is something that has been encouraged by nutritionists for some time. However eating carrots and celery, for example, provides you with nutrients from the same plant family, as do apples, pears, apricots, peaches, raspberries and blackberries. Indeed broccoli, kale and cauliflower are actually a single species, Vamosi said.

Eating lots of different produce might not actually provide you with a phylogenetically diverse diet, and whether thats important for providing maximum nutritional value remains to be seen.

The study also argues that steps to protect the diversity of human food plants may have to be taken as globalization and industrial-scale agriculture gradually leads to more uniform diets for the worlds population overall.

"Individually we are probably eating a greater range of plant species than our ancestors, but the loss of indigenous knowledge and regional cuisines may mean that as a species our diet is becoming increasing focussed on a few plant species, and indeed a few varieties of those species states coauthor John Wilson.

The fact that we do eat so broadly indicates that we enjoy many different flavours and combinations of flavours and also indicates that many plants that we don't eat likely have some sort of culinary value that we just haven't discovered yet, Vamosi said. Maintaining plant diversity ensures that we will continue to have the current flavours that we enjoy available to us and will also preserve other potential food sources into the future.


'/>"/>
Contact: Grady Semmens
gsemmens@ucalgary.ca
403-220-7722
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Intravenous gene therapy protects normal tissue of mice during whole-body radiation
2. The worlds oldest bacteria
3. When bivalves ruled the world
4. Brains timing linked with timescales of the natural visual world
5. Amid spiralling government interest, worlds top 350 DNA barcode scientists meet in Taipei
6. Smithsonian scientists help lead effort to barcode worlds species
7. NASA celebrates a decade observing climate impacts on health of worlds oceans
8. The best both of worlds -- how to have sex and survive
9. NASA celebrates a decade observing climate impacts on health of worlds oceans
10. Amid spiralling government interest, worlds top 350 DNA barcode scientists meet in Taipei
11. Leading experts cite poor health and nutrition as major barrier to education in developing world
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:11/30/2016)... Poland , Nov. 30, 2016 Not many of us realize that ... aspects of recovery so we need to do it well. Inadequate sleep levels have ... high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and even cancer. Maybe now is the ... present that could help them to manage their sleep quality? ... ...
(Date:11/29/2016)... Nearly one billion matches per second with DERMALOG,s high-speed AFIS    ... ... DERMALOG is Germany's largest Multi-Biometric supplier: The company's Fingerprint ... ... Multi-Biometric supplier: The company's Fingerprint Identification System is part of an efficient ...
(Date:11/22/2016)... Minn. , Nov. 22, 2016   MedNet ... supports the entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased ... Medical LiveWire Healthcare and Life Sciences Awards ... award caps off an unprecedented year of recognition and ... trials for over 15 years. iMedNet ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/2/2016)... ... December 01, 2016 , ... DrugDev believes the only way ... beautiful technology experience. All three tenets were on display at the 2nd Annual DrugDev ... over 40 sponsor, CRO and site organizations to discuss innovation and the future of ...
(Date:12/2/2016)... , Dec. 1, 2016   SurePure, Inc. ... announced today that the Company has concluded an agreement ... right for a 90-day period to acquire units of ... of approximately USD 3.7 million.  Concurrently ... with Tamarack under which Tamarack will seek regulatory approvals ...
(Date:11/30/2016)... CLEVELAND , Nov. 30, 2016  GenomOncology today announced ... Vice President of Medical Affairs.  Dr. Coleman ... enhancing the company,s proprietary knowledge-enabled platform. The GenomOncology software suite ... of genetic sequencing data and clinical decision support, from quality ... , ...
(Date:11/30/2016)... , Nov. 30, 2016  The Allen Institute ... Collection: the first publicly available collection of gene ... that target key cellular structures with unprecedented clarity. ... these powerful tools are a crucial first step ... better understand what makes human cells healthy and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: