Friday, May 14, 2004
Alcohol Consumption as Part of Our Evolutionary Heritage
Purified morphine and cocaine only date from the 19th Century; distilled alcohol and tobacco only became available to most humans a couple hundred years earlier. But alcohol itself has been around since time immemorial, in the form of naturally fermenting fruit. So while heroin and cocaine, for instance, might be said to hijack the brain reward pathways that were developed to motivate survival and reproductive activities, our taste for alcohol (and our ability to ingest it safely) might have evolved along with us. At least that is one hypothesis, as explained in this article. Here's a brief excerpt: "Primate ancestors of Homo sapiens were highly dependent on fruit, and so, the new theory goes, they developed a strong attraction to the ethanol that naturally spikes lusciously ripe and overripe fruits. This predilection was then passed on to humans."