Food, Science, and the Human Body

Watch Food, Science, and the Human Body

  • 2017
  • 1 Season

Food, Science, and the Human Body is an educational series presented by Alyssa Crittenden as part of The Great Courses Signature Collection. This interdisciplinary course explores the complex relationship between food, science, and the human body. It delves deeply into the scientific principles behind different food sources, their preparation, and their effects on our health.

Professor Alyssa Crittenden is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of human health and nutrition. With her extensive background and experience in biological anthropology, she brings a unique perspective to the subject. In this course, she takes learners on a deep dive into the complexities of food – from how we obtain it, to how we prepare it, to how our bodies use it.

The course is divided into 24 lectures, with each lecture focusing on a specific topic. The lectures cover various aspects of food and its role in human evolution, cultural development, and health. From understanding the genetics of food pyramids to discussing the effects of different diets on our metabolism, Crittenden presents the material in a clear and concise manner that is engaging and easy to follow.

One of the most significant objectives of the course is helping learners understand how our bodies process and interact with different foods. Crittenden provides a comprehensive breakdown of how our digestive system works and how our bodies digest various types of foods. She also talks about the effects of different diets on our health, both positive and negative.

The course also delves into the social and cultural aspects of food, exploring topics such as the role of food in creating and maintaining social bonds, food taboos, and the relationship between food and cultural identity. Crittenden's vast knowledge of anthropology provides insightful commentary on the subject, making this course an excellent resource for learners interested in exploring the cultural nuances around food.

Throughout the course, Crittenden incorporates relevant case studies and scientific research findings to illustrate the key concepts effectively. These case studies range from the latest research on ancient diets to the importance of breastfeeding in infant development. The course also provides a comprehensive overview of food sources, as well as their benefits and risks, including animal-based and plant-based foods.

Overall, Food, Science, and the Human Body is an engaging and insightful course that provides a comprehensive understanding of the role of food in human health, evolution, culture, and history. Alyssa Crittenden's expertise, combined with the well-structured format of the course, makes it both informative and entertaining, making it an excellent fit for anyone interested in the fascinating world of food and its effects on the human body.

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.

Food, Science, and the Human Body
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The Future of Food
36. The Future of Food
July 21, 2017
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.
Should We Be Powered by Plants?
35. Should We Be Powered by Plants?
July 21, 2017
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)?
Should the World Eat Meat?
34. Should the World Eat Meat?
July 21, 2017
In the first of two lectures on the politics of food, explore whether or not sustainable meat production is a myth or reality. What are the environmental costs of meat production? How can we rethink the way we house, feed, and raise livestock? Is too much meat bad for our health?
World Poverty and Undernutrition
33. World Poverty and Undernutrition
July 21, 2017
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.
The Overnutrition Epidemic
32. The Overnutrition Epidemic
July 21, 2017
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).
What the World Is Eating
31. What the World Is Eating
July 21, 2017
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.
Civilization: Diets and Diseases
30. Civilization: Diets and Diseases
July 21, 2017
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).
You Are What Your Mother Ate
29. You Are What Your Mother Ate
July 21, 2017
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?
Brain Food
28. Brain Food
July 21, 2017
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.
The Gut Microbiome
27. The Gut Microbiome
July 21, 2017
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.
The Scoop on Poop
26. The Scoop on Poop
July 21, 2017
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.
The Coevolution of Genes and Diet
25. The Coevolution of Genes and Diet
July 21, 2017
Biological and cultural evolution are not separate phenomena, and this is nowhere better exemplified than with diet. In this lecture, Professor Crittenden discusses the ways in which our genes and diet have co-evolved. You'll witness this fascinating process through examples of how our body evolved to metabolize (or not) enzymes like lactase and amylase, as well as omega 3 fatty acids.
Food as Medicine
24. Food as Medicine
July 21, 2017
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.
Food as Recreational Drugs
23. Food as Recreational Drugs
July 21, 2017
Throughout history, we've consumed food not just for nourishment, but also for psychological effects. In this lecture, go inside the world of recreational drugs, including psilocybin mushrooms, edible marijuana treats, and addictions to foods like chocolate or french fries.
When People Eat Things That Aren't Food
22. When People Eat Things That Aren't Food
July 21, 2017
Sometimes, people consume things that are not considered food, from dirt to hair to human flesh. Professor Crittenden introduces you to some of the more outlandish dietary practices around the world, including placentophagy (in which a mother eats the placenta after giving birth) and anthropophagy (also known as cannibalism).
Food as Ritual
21. Food as Ritual
July 21, 2017
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.
The Fizz on Soda
20. The Fizz on Soda
July 21, 2017
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.
The Roots of Tea
19. The Roots of Tea
July 21, 2017
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.
Coffee: Love or Addiction?
18. Coffee: Love or Addiction?
July 21, 2017
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.
Humanity's Love of Wine
17. Humanity's Love of Wine
July 21, 2017
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.
Beer, Mead, and the Fun of Fermentation
16. Beer, Mead, and the Fun of Fermentation
July 21, 2017
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.
Water: The Liquid of Life
15. Water: The Liquid of Life
July 21, 2017
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?
The Science and Secrets of Chocolate
14. The Science and Secrets of Chocolate
July 21, 2017
Today, chocolate is a multi-billion-dollar global industry. In this lecture, Professor Crittenden takes you back in time so you can follow chocolate's trek around the world, considering not only its history and chemical properties, but its role in the current global market in the form of powerful chocolate empires.
A Brief History of Bread
13. A Brief History of Bread
July 21, 2017
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.
How Sugar and Salt Shaped World History
12. How Sugar and Salt Shaped World History
July 21, 2017
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.
The History of the Spice Trade
11. The History of the Spice Trade
July 21, 2017
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.
How Foods Spread around the World
10. How Foods Spread around the World
July 21, 2017
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.
The Changing Disease-Scape
9. The Changing Disease-Scape
July 21, 2017
Turn now to a darker product of the Neolithic revolution: the growth of zoonotic diseases, or diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites that spread between animals and humans. Among the ones you'll encounter here are Lyme disease, West Nile virus, malaria, salmonella, and E. coli.
The Neolithic Revolution
8. The Neolithic Revolution
July 21, 2017
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.
Cooking and the Control of Fire
7. Cooking and the Control of Fire
July 21, 2017
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.
Was the Stone Age Menu Mostly Vegetarian?
6. Was the Stone Age Menu Mostly Vegetarian?
July 21, 2017
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.
Insects: The Other White Meat
5. Insects: The Other White Meat
July 21, 2017
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.
Did Meat Eating Make Us Human?
4. Did Meat Eating Make Us Human?
July 21, 2017
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.
Stones, Bones, and Teeth
3. Stones, Bones, and Teeth
July 21, 2017
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.
Our Hunter-Gatherer Past
2. Our Hunter-Gatherer Past
July 21, 2017
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.
Paleo Diets and the Ancestral Appetite
1. Paleo Diets and the Ancestral Appetite
July 21, 2017
Do we have an ancestral appetite? First, uncover how similar the current Paleo diet fad is to what our actual ancestors ate. Then, learn how digestive anatomy and neural expansion played a role in the evolution of nutrition. Finally, determine whether or not humans are adapted to one specific diet. #Better Living
Where to Watch Food, Science, and the Human Body
Food, Science, and the Human Body is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Food, Science, and the Human Body on demand at Amazon and Hoopla.
  • Premiere Date
    July 21, 2017