Alyssa Crittenden, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), and Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Medicine, delivers a thorough overview of anthropology and diet.
Crittenden has spent many years deeply researching the evolution of human behavior, specifically as it pertains to nutrition and reproduction. With a keen interest in the many questions that circulate regarding what makes our human species so incredibly unique, Crittenden’s research taps into the direct links between diet composition, growth/development, as well as the formation of families and child rearing.
Crittenden discusses her opinions on diet and nutrition. As a nutritional anthropologist, she is particularly interested in historical diets as they relate to what we know today. She delves into a discussion on the paleo diet. The paleo diet, short for Paleolithic diet, sometimes referred to as the caveman diet or stone-age diet is a complete diet that requires an individual to restrict their diet to foods thought to have been readily available to humans throughout the Paleolithic era. Crittenden explains the benefits of various diets and substitutes people can make to stay true to their particular diet. As she states, while the paleo diet is popular, many clinical nutritionists don’t advocate it. From an anthropological perspective, she explains that the enlargement of human brains was related to higher quality food sources.
The Ph.D. discusses how many diets exist in our society, but most of the world does not have the same dietary options or access. She delves into some of the questions we ponder in relation to our food sources and diet and relates how our microbiome is directly impacted by not only foods we eat but also our environment. She talks about worms and insects and how many people in the world commonly eat them, though most Americans are quite averse to the idea. She explains how the harvesting of insects is more sustainable, as large animals require significant amounts of land for grazing. She details some of the statistics that relate to food growth and crop productivity. Incorporating insects into the diet, Crittenden states is perhaps one of the best ways that we can enhance our food supply, with a lower impact.
The professor discusses how access to adequate nutrition is still a privilege but not a right. Many people in the world are malnourished, unfortunately, and obesity adds another element that contributes negatively to global health.
Crittenden has worked extensively with the Hadza of Tanzania, East Africa — one of the world’s few remaining hunting and gathering populations. Crittenden’s work has been published often in academic journals and highlighted in notable media sources such as The New York Times, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Psychology Today, and many others.