Staying on the food-taboo theme, we recommend this recent paper from the eternally irresistible Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. The whole thing is worth a read, especially the authors’ various theories regarding why taboos exist. Our favorite nugget comes in the section dedicated to explaining why taboos may have formed to protect human health:
Eating to regulate emotions has been listed as one of the five classes of “emotion-induced changes of eating” by Macht and IgE-mediated atopic diseases are known to be associated with depression and suicide rate. An increase of unsaturated fatty acids in the diet has been found to be correlated with decreased violent behaviour and an exposure to sunflower seeds and colorants derived from the fungus Monascus ruber can cause asthma attacks. Finally, low glycaemic meals have been reported to improve memory and ability to sustain attention, features that might not have gone unnoticed by our forebears in earlier times and could have led to the avoidance or recommendation not to consume certain food items.
As you can tell by our bolding, it’s the bit about fatty acids that struck a chord with us. If our species is, indeed, hard-wired to favor unsaturated fatty acids as a means of increasing social cohesion, that might go a long way toward explaining some recent trends. Keep in mind that food scientists only recently discovered that unsaturated fatty acids could be made more shelf stable by partially hydrogenating them—a process that results in tasty foods that wreak havoc on our internal circuitry. Instinctively drawn toward these foods, then, our waistlines expand as our crime rate declines.
So perhaps more policing and tougher sentencing isn’t the solution to violent crime. A carpet bombing of Little Debbie products may do the trick much more efficiently.