B2 Reading Gapped Text Exam 7
High and mighty
The human race is changing. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the human race is going back to how it used to be. The paleontologist Professor Chris Stringer feels we are becoming Cro-Magnons again. These were the people who lived on this planet 40,000 years ago, and the reason for the change is diet. The evidence is that every decade, the average height of people in Europe grows another centimetre and every year, more and more truly big people are born.
Before the invention of agriculture, our ancestors got their food from a wide variety оf sources: women gathered herbs, fruits and berries, while men supplemented these with occasional kills of animals, which is a way of life still adopted by the world's few remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers.
Then, with the invention of agriculture about 9,000 years ago, everything changed, and the consequences were devastating. Most of the planet's green places were gradually taken over by farmers, with the result that just three carbohydrate-rich plants, wheat, rice and maize, provided more than half of the calories consumed by the human race.
Instead of living on the wide variety of plants as before, we started living on cereals, which have left us underfed and underdeveloped. Some scientists in Ohio, in a recent study, found that when they began to grow corn, healthy hunter-gatherers were turned into sickly, underweight farmers. Tooth decay increased, as did diseases, and far from being one of the blessings of the New World, corn was a public health disaster, according to some anthropologists.
This problem with the diet and its relation to poor health and growth was not taken seriously until recently, even by the world's wealthier nations. Only in the West and Japan are diets again reflecting the richness of our ancestors' diets and, as a result, the average man in the US is now 179 cm, in Holland 180 cm, and in Japan 177 cm. This is encouraging, though it has brought new problems.
In 1860, the standard length of a bed was 190cm, exactly the same size as it is today. Leg room in trains and planes has been reduced rather than increased, and clothing manufacturers are constantly having to revise their range of products. Can we then keep on growing?
Robert Fogel, of Chicago University, feels it could be as much as 193 cm, which we are likely to reach sometime this century. There is, however, some bad news. Scientist warn that although individuals may be growing taller because of improved nutrition, as a species we are actually shrinking. During the last ice age, 10,000 years ago, members of the human race were slightly rounder and taller, which was an evolutionary response to the cold, because large, round bodies are best at keeping in heat.
But once things got a bit warmer, we became thinner and smaller, even when properly fed.
This leads to the conclusion that as the planet heats up, as a consequence of global warming, we may all be shrinking. That is something to think about when we drive our cars and emit as much carbon dioxide as we do.
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