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In these 36 lectures, get answers to questions about the evolution of the human diet and its relationship to our bodies. Bringing together insights from fields including anthropology, health science, biology, and sociology, this partnership between The Great Courses and National Geographic lays bare what science can teach us about food.

Food, Science, and the Human Body is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (36 episodes). The series first aired on July 21, 2017.

Where do I stream Food, Science, and the Human Body online? Food, Science, and the Human Body is available for streaming on The Great Courses Signature Collection, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Food, Science, and the Human Body on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon, The Roku Channel online.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 36 Episodes
July 21, 2017
Cast: Alyssa Crittenden
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Food, Science, and the Human Body Full Episode Guide

  • Artificial meat. Bio-fortified crops. Vertical farms in the middle of cities. Bread grown from spent grains used in breweries. Crops grown with agroforestry methods. Conclude the course with a broad look at developing a food system that is better equipped to deal with population growth and diminishing resources.

  • Turn now to the politics of eating a plant-based diet. What are the health benefits of vegetarianism and veganism? Why do people decide to follow this diet? What role does beauty play in food waste? What exactly is the controversy surrounding the organic foods movement and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

  • Every night, one in eight people goes to bed hungry. Get an eye-opening look at undernourishment in the developing and post-industrialized worlds. You'll consider the two types of malnourishment, the concept of "plump poverty," the roles played by urban slums and overpopulation, and ways we can work to eradicate world hunger.

  • According to the World Health Organization, most of the world's population now lives in countries where obesity kills more people than malnutrition. In this insightful lecture, explore the two-pronged pathway to global obesity: decreased physical activity and radical changes in diet (including the massive consumption of sugar).

  • Take a fascinating tour of different meals from around the world to better appreciate the global tradition of eating. Cultural cuisines you explore are those listed by the United Nations as part of the world's "intangible cultural heritage," and include Japanese cuisine, Mexican cuisine, and French cuisine.

  • Professor Crittenden explains the second and third epidemiological transitions in human evolution and the changing face of the world's disease-scape. First is the decline over the last two centuries of infectious disease and the rise of chronic degenerative diseases (like diabetes). Then there's the re-emergence of drug-resistant infectious diseases (like Zika).

  • Your diet as a fetus has a powerful influence on your life as an adult. What micronutrients are most important to your first nine months of life? What did a historic Dutch famine reveal about the consequences of sub-standard nutrition during pregnancy? What can we learn from studying heritable changes in gene expression?

  • There's data out there to suggest that it's possible to feed your brain. In this lecture on the links between diet and the brain, explore the role of hormones like insulin and leptin; unpack the tangled links between food cravings and addiction; and consider how the MIND diet can help delay neurodegeneration.

  • Your body can play host to anywhere from 30 to 50 trillion bacterial cells, the most species of which are in your gut. Learn how gut microbiota help us metabolize food and drugs, and defend us against pathogens. Put simply: these microbes are fellow travelers in human evolution.

  • There's a lot we can learn about the end point of nutrition. Here, trace the science and history of excrement, including its oldest fossilized forms (known as coprolites), the study of latrine systems in ancient Rome, and the important role played by gut bacteria in excrement production.

  • Is there a substantial link between diet and disease prevention? Professor Crittenden explains the medicinal histories behind several foods. Among them are ginger (thought to help with digestive issues) and cinnamon (used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various ailments), as well as goji berries, chocolate, and pomegranate.

  • Humans don't just eat for nutrition. It's a deeply symbolic activity as well. In this lecture, consider some of the many different categories of food rituals around the world, including fasting for Ramadan, making sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead, bobbing for apples during Halloween, and America's favorite fall feast: Thanksgiving.

  • Soda was once an embodiment of the American dream. Now, it's one of the worst contributors to obesity-related diseases. Make sense of this fizzy drink by exploring its origins as patented medicine, the soda wars between Coke and Pepsi, and the health risks associated with its high sugar content.

  • What is the source of the nearly 1,500 different types of tea in the world? How did tea spread from Japan to Europe? What are the differences between green, black, and white teas? How was the tea bag accidentally invented? Is drinking tea good for your health? Get the answers in this lecture.

  • Each year, over 500 billion cups of coffee are served. Reconsider this popular drink and its relationship with world history. Along the way, you'll explore the ways coffee is harvested, how caffeine works on your body and mind, popular ways to drink coffee, and the origins of the free-trade movement.

  • Continue looking at our relationship with fermented beverages, this time with a look into the story of fermenting grapes into wine. Topics include the science behind viticulture and the production of different types of wine, the reasons winemakers are turning away from cork, and "retsina," one of the oldest types of white wine.

  • From ancient Egyptian experiments to the 21st-century microbrewery down the street from your house, explore the intricate links between the fermentation of wheat and honey and human civilization. As you follow our love affair with beer and mead, you'll be surprised to learn just how accidental their discovery was.

  • Of all the water on Earth, only a fraction of it is drinkable. How much water is used by humans throughout the world? How did bottled water become so popular? Why is water fluoridation so controversial? How can we work to conserve water, both as a nation and in our everyday lives?

  • Bread, in all its forms, is one of the most widely consumed foods in the world. It was also the foundation for many civilizations. Here, consider aspects about this dietary staple, including the art of leavening, the religious and social roles of light and dark bread, and the artisanal bread movement.

  • Salt and sugar have also played large roles in food production and global health. Topics in this lecture include how sugar is extracted from sugar cane, the rise of alternative sweeteners and sugar substitutes, early non-dietary uses of salt, and the dangers of a high-sodium diet.

  • They're a common enough item in our pantries today, but in the past, spices were highly valued and tightly guarded, and were the catalyst for creating and destroying empires. Examine the spices that were critically important during the opening decades of the spice routes, including pepper, cloves, ginger, and garlic.

  • Once domestication was in full swing, foods began to be exchanged among different groups, leading to the subject of this lecture: delocalization. In order to better understand the development of this process, in which food consumed in one area is produced far away, you'll consider examples and case studies including bananas, apples, tomatoes, and corn.

  • Discover what prompted large populations of people to drastically change their subsistence strategy by domesticating plants and animals, Also, learn how this Neolithic revolution permanently altered the human diet, as well as paved the way for massive population growth, the development of nation states, and new vectors for disease.

  • Roasting. Boiling. Baking. Grilling. When did our ancestors start cooking with fire, and how? Find out in this lecture that takes you back nearly 1 million years on a journey to find out how we evolved to eat our food cooked, whether using boiling stones or a butane torch.

  • Explore the critical role that plant foods have played in our diet. You'll study plant microfossils that radically change what we thought we knew about the Stone Age menu. You'll learn the essential role played by underground storage organs (or "tubers"). And you'll revisit Professor Crittenden's research on plant-processing techniques among Tanzanian foragers.

  • There are more than 1,900 edible insect species on Earth, and 2 billion people regularly consume insects as part of their diet. In this lecture, Professor Crittenden takes you inside the fascinating world of entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) and the ways we turn to insects for nutrition.

  • Learn how meat changed the playing field for our earliest ancestors. First, trace the history of meat eating through human evolution. Then, use data from cut marks on bones to decipher when, exactly, we began to eat meat. Also, consider the nutritive benefits (and dangers) linked with meat consumption.

  • For clues to the history of human nutrition, scientists look to fossils in the form of stones, bones, and teeth. In this lecture, learn what scientists discovered about the ancestral dinner plate through stone artifacts used for butchery, the bones of the human cranium, and the dentition of early humans.

  • For the bulk of human history, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. Using fascinating research from a study of one of Africa's last foraging populations, Professor Crittenden reveals insights into how hunter-gatherer societies function, and how they may have shaped the diversity of human nutrition.