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Evol Med Public Health. 2018 Aug 8;2018(1):201-210. doi: 10.1093/emph/eoy022. eCollection 2018.

Status of evolutionary medicine within the field of nutrition and dietetics: A survey of professionals and students.

Author information

School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, 427 E Tyler Mall #4601, Tempe, AZ, USA.
Institute of Human Nutrition, Columbia University Medical Center, 630 West 168th Street PH1512, New York, NY, USA.
Department of Sociology, Princeton University260 College Ave Apt. E, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
Quantitative Science Unit, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1070 Arastradero Rd, Palo Alto, Stanford, CA, USA.
Department of History, State University of New York, 600 Hawk Dr, New Paltz, NY, USA.


Lay Summary:

Through an online survey of nutrition and dietetic professionals and students, we learned there is interest to incorporate evolutionary medicine into the nutrition and dietetics field and education programs.

Background and objectives:

Evolutionary medicine is an emerging field that examines the evolutionary significance of modern disease to develop new preventative strategies or treatments. While many areas of interest in evolutionary medicine and public health involve diet, we currently lack an understanding of whether nutrition and dietetics professionals and students appreciate the potential of evolutionary medicine.


Cross-sectional online survey to measure the level of appreciation, applicability and knowledge of evolutionary medicine among nutrition and dietetics professionals and students. We then examined the relationships between support of evolutionary medicine and (i) professionals and students, (ii) US region, (iii) religious belief and (iv) existing evolutionary knowledge.


A total of 2039 people participated: students (n = 893) and professionals (n = 1146). The majority of the participants agree they are knowledgeable on the theory of evolution (59%), an understanding of evolution can aid the nutrition and dietetics field (58%), an evolutionary perspective would be beneficial in dietetics education (51%) and it is equally important to understand both the evolutionary and direct causes of disease (71%). Significant differences in responses between professionals and students suggest students are currently learning more about evolution and are also more supportive of using an evolutionary perspective. Whereas differences in responses by US region were minimal, differences by religious belief and prior evolutionary knowledge were significant; however, all responses were either neutral or supportive at varying strengths.

Conclusion and implications:

There is interest among professionals and students to incorporate evolutionary medicine into the nutrition and dietetics field and education programs.


dietetics; evolutionary medicine; interdisciplinary approaches; nutrition

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