Appetite for the Selfish Gene

I. Iztok Ostan, B. Borut Poljsak, M. Simcic, L.M.M. Tijskens

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11 Citations (Scopus)


In developed countries, where the majority of the population has enough income to afford healthy diets, a large number of the inhabitants nevertheless choose unhealthy nutrition. WHO and FAO strategies to overcome this problem are mostly based on educational means. Implicitly, this approach is based on the presumption that the main causes of the problem are ignorance and culturally acquired bad habits. It has already been shown that wild animals, evidently acting solely on instinct without cultural effects, display tendencies that may damage their longevity: they tend to avoid healthy types of caloric restriction, prefer processed to raw food, and have an excessive intake of food stimulants and proteins when available (Ostan et al., 2009). This paper presents evidence for such nutritional patterns in humans as well and broadens the discourse to include proteins and fats and describes some human biological traits that present important differences between humans and other primates; among them are the human tendency for overeating and the inadequacy of a totally raw diet for human consumption (despite having some advantages for the human immune system). From an evolutionary perspective these strategies offer a biological advantage by enhancing the reproductive capability of the organisms, according to Dawkins' theory of the Selfish Gene. Genomic-based pleasure of such nutrition seems to be the main cause of instinctive nutritional drives. Further research on the process of food acceptance is needed to determine the role and importance of genomic-based pleasure compared to epigenetic or culture-based pleasure. Both, however, seem to be important and very stable factors in human nutritional choice and seem to prevail over conscious factors in food acceptance
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-449
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • mitochondrial oxidative stress
  • low-fat diets
  • caloric restriction
  • genetical evolution
  • maternal-behavior
  • adipose-tissue
  • life-span
  • obesity
  • food
  • expression

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    Iztok Ostan, I., Borut Poljsak, B., Simcic, M., & Tijskens, L. M. M. (2010). Appetite for the Selfish Gene. Appetite, 54(3), 442-449.