Washington, Feb 5 : In a study on mice, researchers at the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have found that dietary differences between men and other apes have significant physiological and genetic consequences on our evolution.
The diet consumed by humans is quite distinct in itself, as compared to other apes. Humans not only take in more meat and fat but they also cook their own food.
It was assumed that adopting these dietary patterns played an important role during human evolution. But till date, the influence of diet on the physiological and genetic differences between humans and other apes has not been widely examined.
In the current study, researchers fed laboratory mice with different human and chimp diets over just a two week period. This enabled them to reconstruct some of the physiological and genetic differences observed between humans and chimpanzees.
Laboratory mice were given one of three diets: a raw fruit and vegetable diet fed to chimpanzees in zoos, a human diet consisting of food served at the Institute cafeteria or a pure fast food menu from the local McDonald's.
It was found that the chimpanzee diet was visibly different from the two human diets in its effect on the liver, reports Environmental News Network.
The researchers observed many differences in the levels at which genes were expressed in the mouse livers. However, no such differences were observed in the mouse brains.
Earlier, a significant fraction of the genes that changed in the mouse livers had been observed to be different between humans and chimpanzees.
This pointed out that the differences observed in these particular genes might be caused by the difference in diets of human and chimpanzee.
In addition, the researchers observed that the diet-related genes also appear to have been evolved faster than other genes. In fact, protein and promoter sequences of these genes changed faster than expected, perhaps because of adaptation to new diets.