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Reviews of Nutrition and Evolution

THE DRIVING FORCE: Food in Evolution and the Future / NUTRITION & EVOLUTION 

By Michael A. Crawford & David E. Marsh


From Amazon Books

5.0 out of 5 stars. It's chock full of great info.
By Dr Sylvia Onusic, Nutrition Poweron, November 22, 2015

Dr. Michael Crawford is the world expert on fatty acids. In this book he talks about how the brain developed and why due to arachidonic acid and oil from plants in combo with the omega 3's. It's chock full of great info.

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book, must read
ByBen Everetton January 5, 2015

Crawford and Marsh have penned one the best looks ever at the evolution of our species. The book is entirely data driven, no unsubstantiated theories are postulated. This is a must read for anyone interested in nutritional biochemistry or the evolution of our species.

5.0 out of 5 stars
By A Customer on 7 Aug. 1999

Environment produces foods, qualities of which shape the evolution of all life forms from bacteria to mammals.For metazoans including us the strongest evolutionary influences occur during foetal development. "The surroundings of the primordium in ontogeny"; Richard Goldschmidt. Geneticist; (Material basis for evolution, 1940.) Read this book to enlarge your understanding of the environmental interactive processes of evolution, that continue to shape our lives and deaths. Not an easy read, but a must for environmentalists and ecologists who care about our planet and our prospects for remaining in balance with its overwhelming biochemical complexity.

Professor Clutterbuck "the best book on evolution since the Origin of Species". 1990

Excellent - supplies missing pieces of the dietary puzzle. 8 Oct. 1999
By Jonathan S. Christie - Published on Amazon.com

As I began to read, I had a sense of deja vu - and no wonder, it was published in the UK as The Driving Force in 1989. I lent my copy to some miserable bastard who never returned it and it's now out of print, so I'm delighted to have re-acquired it, albeit inadvertantly; I recommend it highly. Don't be put off by any philosphical excess here, theories of our origin don't matter nearly as much as the biochemistry set out in this book which can literally restore your health if you have a Western degenerative disease. Crawford and Marsh elucidate an emerging paradigm.

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful

5 out of 5 stars Nutritional Factors Challenge Species 23 Jan. 2003
By Ralph G. Barclay - Published on Amazon.com

Format: Hardcover

A species must have the proper nutrition to thrive, if nutrition changes the species must adapt. Better adapted mutations survive and the species is changed. For other challenges the nutritional support for the adapting mutation must be present. For instance, man must have developed his big brain while he had access to omega 3 fatty acids ---most likely near a lake or the ocean. Today, the IQ in UK is declining to lack of proper nutrition.

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful

5 out of 5 stars Essential reading: myths smashed, eyes opened. 4 April 2004
By Ben Paleo - Published on Amazon.com [Dr Ben Balzer, Sidney, Aus.]

Format: Paperback

This wonderful book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in evolution or high level nutrition. You will soon see clearly that evolution is not fully understood. The case is made that evolution is constrained by nutritional requirements as much as a car is by the highway (my analogy not theirs). The myth of the boundless potential of evolution is destroyed forever, and sobering limits are imposed.

Don't blame Darwin- they make it clear that he saw the "highway as well as the car", but we have deified his theory and overlooked the limitations that he actually wrote about. One feels somewhat chastened after 30 years or so of blind worship to find that evolution is not the magic amulet taught in school, but merely a powerful tool with quite mundane limitations. These limitations must be understood if one wishes to have any scientific credibility. Sadly only a minority of scientists understand these limitations, and this little book makes the opinions of many seem peurile.

The philosophical and thought provoking discussion is most stimulating- the many interesting facts and anecdotes making it most most worthwhile reading. Like a kitten, my eyes have been opened. Thank you Crawford and Marsh.

Miguel Melgar

I have been a strong advocate of Elaine Morgan's Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT) and Murray's Sea Energy. This book combines my favourite subjects, e.g., evolution, aquatic ape theory, the energy of the sea water and nutrition. It is the only one of its kind. Yet, it is out of print. I do not understand that.. I noticed that terrestrial evolutionists debunk the AAT, while the marine evolutionists tend to accept AAT. I wonder if they also recognize the influence of nutrition on evolution of homo sapiens.

Craig Samms. In personal correspondence to David Marsh on his paper The Origins of Diversity: Darwin's Conditions and Epigenetic Variations. Nutrition & Health Jan 2012

I have been meaning to write for some time to thank you for helping me to crystallise my understanding of evolution and heredity – I have been a Lamarckian (even a Lysenko’ist) for years because it just makes sense.  I’ve seen how diet can build strong babies, strong children and lead to strong healthy grandchildren.  Years ago they said that a cup of coffee or a microgram of LSD could warp your chromosomes for the worse.  It therefore follows that positive dietary choices will warp them for the better. I will continue to read and re-read your article and follow up on some of the references.  I think it’s a really important document and if you have an electronic copy that I could share with a few friends I’d be immensely grateful.

Carlos Guerrero_Bosagna

It has been suggested that the emergence of epigenetics will impact the manner we see the origin of diversity and will represent the first paradigm change in evolutionary biology in 150 years (Marsh 2007).

0n Utero Exposures and Future Medical and Ideological Risks

Posted on November 16, 2010 by Michael Ash in Reviews

Nature Vs Nurture

Another important area attracting dualistic thinking - and the main focus of this article is in utero programming. Until quite recently, geneticists have dominated the biological sciences in their hunt for single genes and related diseases - many have been proposed but hardly any have had a level of causality confidently assigned to them. Meanwhile, the newer science of epigenetics has slowly been gathering pace and represents a variation that appears to be gaining traction in the explanations we all seek for health and disease: that the environment and especially the availability of food and nutrients will determine gene expression. Whilst regarded as a new science by many, it should be noted that the greatest name associated with evolutionary changes; Darwin, described a similar mechanism as 'conditions of existence' elegantly discussed by David Marsh in the article: The Origins of Diversity: Darwin's Conditions and Epigenetic Variations published in 2008.

“In all the controversies over what the causes of diversities might be, no one seems to have paid much attention to the factor in the environment that has the most obvious effect on any organism: Michael Crawford & David Marsh in The Driving Force: Food in Evolution and the Future (http://www.ctds.info/health-quotes.html). Lawrence Woodward: Elm Farm Research Centre, Research, Policy and Organic Advisory Service.

“We stand on the threshold of a major paradigm change” (Marsh D E, Nutrition and Health, 2007). This new knowledge may appear as a threat to some, but not to most, I suspect. Previously mentioned in the literature - is my belief that we stand on the threshold of a major paradigm change in evolution theory. The ‘new molecular genetics’ is showing us the way: providing evidence-based research. Further reading - David Marsh nutrition evolution.

Colin Leakey

Jan 29, 2011
The start of the Omega fats story

The Driving Force: Food in Evolution and the Future by Michael Crawford and David Marsh (1989) Heinemann. Paperback Mandarin Non Fiction/Science (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Leakey Ph.D (Cantab) C.Biol, FSB, Visiting Professor of Biology, University of Lincoln 

This book sets out to present an important and novel approach to human evolution. Daring to do this was brave in the face of entrenched beliefs and attitudes of the evolutionary and anthropological establishments where controversy in these fields of science was already normal and notorious. Sir Solly Zuckerman who outraged many for his supposing that ape sexual behaviour in caged zoo animals was a useful guide to understanding behaviour in the wild, nevertheless usefully set up the Nuffield Institute of Comparative Medicine. As a result biochemist Crawford found himself in 1960 practically the only competent biochemist in early post-independance Uganda with research projects both in human nutrition and that of feline predators and their prey.

Others around him were studying infant malnutrition - a curse of tropical Africa then and sadly still now on the one hand and why, as John Rivers, a medic, had pointed out, lion carnivores seem smarter and more artful that zebras and their other herbivore prey. Professor Pierre Budowski also seminally introduced to our authors the realisation that two different 'families' of essential fatty acids, now known as Omega 3's and Omega 6's, are both needed for the proper development of the brain.

Much of the content of this book is spent on exploring the possible significance of seafood, fish and shellfish providing better sources of Omega 3?s than land-based foods. This idea chimed well with the apparent high intelligence of marine mammals such as dolphins on a high Omega 3 diet and on our human species of modern man having perhaps colonised many parts of the tropical world by migrating along sea shores -another modern resurrection of an old idea. Our authors wisely go short however of the extreme position of fully endorsing the well known hypothesis of Hardy?s marine origin of mankind or descent from Homo aquaticus. 

David Marsh's contribution is clearly more concerned with the evolving viewpoints of the evolutionists and what is now known as epigenetics. Michael Crawford's with the biochemistry and developmental physiological ramifications of the importance of different fats in human diet. Evolution from marine mammals is perhaps something of a dead dolphin in the water. The significance of different fats and their component fatty acids in diet is, on the other hand , an area of study and significant importance that has expanded enormously until now, since the publication of this book and substantial scientific papers written at about the same time by Michael Crawford and his associates. This is a much more important issue than a butter versus margarine war. Any internet search will quickly place this little quoted book and its publication date as having been an unrecognised landmark publication.

As the concept of Plasticity of the brain with Epigenetic Nurture interacting with hard-wired Nature comes into fashion, with the ability to elaborate brain capability depending on smart neural connections being supportable biochemically via diet, some may wonder whether the Nobel committee may have been sleeping over the Michael Crawford’s 1989 story of the Omegas and its forerunners and sequentials. 

Colin Leakey

Quotes from S. H. House’s review in 'Handbook of Epigenetics'*, Chapter 26, pp 425-428

Evolutionary Epigenetics
Epigenetics in Adaptive Evolution and Development: The interplay between evolving species and epigenetic mechanisms. * Handbook of Epigenetics: The New Molecular and Medical Genetics [Hardcover], Editor: Trygve Tollefsbol, Publisher: Academic Press; 1 edition (21 Oct 2010), ISBN-10: 0123757096, ISBN-13: 978-0123757098.

One of the first scientists to prophesy specific permanent effects on health of nutrition from before conception and during development was Professor Michael A. Crawford, Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition. In 1972 he related his and others’ findings to the effects of current nutrition on our current evolution as well as health, with particular emphasis on preconception nutrition, and on marine omega-3 oils in brain and heart development (2,3,4). Such lifelong effects of fetal and infant nutrition are better known by the term “The Barker Hypothesis” (5,6). Crawford used the adjective “epigenetic” in a broad sense, but although the term “epigenetics” had already been coined by Conrad Waddington in 1937 to describe environmental effects on the phenotype, molecular comprehension was delayed for half a century.

Crawford’s proclaiming of the powerful effects of diet on development, culminated in his insistence that only at the waterside could the human species have achieved so large a brain, sustained by plentiful fish and shellfish with their essential marine oils, docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids (DHA and EPA). The only other mammals to retain a large brain as they became at least as large were marine, such as dolphins and whales. Not until the 1990s was the power of Crawford’s case acknowledged by leaders in paleontology, having re-dated remains with electron-spin technology, and related them to evidence of contemporary water levels (10,11). Michael Crawford and David Marsh (12,13) had emphasized that Darwin, in The Origin of the Species (14), had attributed adaptation to “Conditions of Existence”, as a higher law than “Unity of Type”. 

Evolutionary concepts from the 19th century to today
David Marsh (12) well describes how Lamarck’s concept of heritable acquired characteristics, modified by Darwin, had been flatly contradicted by Weismann (the creator of neo-Darwinism). For the controversial background I strongly recommend David E. Marsh’s The Origins of Diversity, (12) an excellent short history of evolutionary debate.

The opinion of David Marsh and Michael Crawford has not wavered since their publication – over a decade before the human genome was mapped – of The Driving Force: Food in Evolution and the Future, 1989, that natural selection and environmental conditions work hand in hand, as current epigenetics research is now showing. To these two authors I am indebted for their insights in Nutrition and Evolution, as their excellent book was renamed in 1995 (13).

I pay tribute to Michael Crawford particularly for his globally outstanding research focused on maternal–child nutrition and brain development. Crawford and Marsh are among the increasing number who stress the value of young children’s developing a taste for fish, sea foods, seaweeds and beneficial algae like spirulina and chlorella.

We seem on the verge of clarifying the relationship of heritability, yet reversibility, to more permanent changes in DNA sequence, namely, mutations. David Marsh (12) sees this as the threshold of a new paradigm. We seem on the verge of clarifying the relationship of heritability, yet reversibility, to more permanent changes in DNA sequence, namely, mutations. David Marsh (12) sees this as the threshold of a new evolutionary paradigm.

Let’s Let Charles Darwin Sort_Out A Modern Debate In Biology

By Bill Sardi
July 29, 2014

An immense federal project that involved 440 scientists from 32 laboratories from around the world, a project known as ENCODE, concluded that 80% of the library of human genes (known as the human genome) is biologically functional. The results of ENCODE were reported in September of 2012 and strong criticism of its “extremely loose definition of ‘biologically functional’ soon followed.” [Proceedings National Academy Sciences April 2, 2013; Time Magazine Sept 6, 2012]

ENCODE stunned the world of human genetics at that time as it was believed that only a small fraction (~3%) of genes actually produce proteins.

Yet in another a scientific reversal, just 22-months later scientists at Oxford University report only 8.2% of our DNA is biologically active. Oxford researchers say the rest of the genome is leftover evolutionary material that has undergone mutational losses or gains in the DNA code. [Science Daily July 24, 2014; PLoS Genetics July 24, 2014]

Moreover, these researchers claim only a little more than 1% of human DNA accounts for the proteins that carry out most biological processes in the body.

Scroll down to end…

Let Charles Darwin sort it out

With arguments for mutational/random natural selection/ evolutionary biology on the one hand and epigenetic/ environmental/alterable epigenetics on the other, it may be time to let the words of Charles Darwin sort out this argument.

David Marsh of the McCarrison Society For Nutrition & Health in London, England notes that Darwin spent a great deal of his time on his trip to the Galapagos Islands searching for possible mechanisms which communicate information from the environment to the human body.

Darwin’s eloquent drawings showing changes in bird beaks over a short period of time (not millions of years as evolutionists claim) strongly points to environmental factors rather than inborn inherited factors that drive biological adaptation.

Marsh notes that “in each of his (Darwin’s) six editions of the ‘Origin Of Species’ he stated there were two forces within “natural selection”. "The survival of those species best-fitted to their environment" and “conditions of existence,” or “struggle for existence” which is the title of the third chapter of Darwin’s book. Darwin claimed the latter is more powerful, says Marsh.

Marsh points out that natural selection has weak predictive power because of its dependence upon random events. Marsh says recent changes in human height and shape over the past century strongly point to Darwin’s “conditions of existence.” [Nutrition & Health Jan 2012] The same goes for the modern epidemic of diabesity.Discover Magazine said it in 2006: “DNA is not our biological destiny.” [Discover Nov 22, 2006] In 2010 Time Magazine’s headline cover story said: “Why DNA Isn’t Your Destiny.” [Time Magazine Jan 6, 2010]

Epigenetics explains more about our biological destiny than evolution. Humans don’t need to be resigned to thinking the diseases that plagued their forefathers will inevitably affect them. Even existing diseases can be reversed mid-course. There is a lot researchers in biology aren’t telling you about epigenetics. [LewRockwell.com April 25, 2014]

The Association of General Practitioners of Natural Medicine

“We whole-heartedly recommend this book to all teachers and students of natural medicine and those who have the survival of the human species at heart. “ Stephen Mirun. January 1990.

International Laboratory.

‘…the theory holds out the hope that improvements in nutrition could be matched by improvements in intellect, and help prevent man from sowing the seed of his own destruction’. Jan/Feb 1990

Evening Standard, Dr Myles Harris

‘…an excellent and thought-provoking book’. 1990

Derek Cooper, the Food Programme

‘…The Driving Force, a brilliantly argued contribution to the theory on evolution. If the authors are right and food does profoundly shape our future, the future looks bleak indeed’. 1990

Townsend Letter for Doctors, July 1992

The Driving Force presents convincing evidence that nutritional chemistry was and continues to be a fundamental evolutionary force.

State Registered Dieticians –in Dietitics Today, 199. Ursula Arens, BSc, S.R.D.

‘The Driving Force’ is highly recommended for dietitians who are nervous of biochemistry, but would like a glimpse into the deeper reasons that may explain “why we eat, what we eat”. Just this once forget the road safety code; don’t walk, run, to buy this book.

New York Press, 1989. John Strausbaugh

…the authors have to do a lot of pretty dull talking about the EFA’s and lipids and other deadly chemistry class info to make their various points. I found myself skimming the hard patches to get to the good stuff. Unless you’re a nutritional chemist you’d probably do the same. But the good stuff is there and it’s very intriguing.



27 January 1990

The fats of evolution / Review of ‘The Driving Force, Evolution and The Future’ by Michael Crawford and David Marsh

The Driving Force: Food, Evolution and The Future by Michael Crawford and David Marsh, Heinemann, pp 298, Pounds sterling 14.95

LIKE DARWIN and many biologists after him, Michael Crawford and David Marsh are puzzled about the contributions of random genetic change and environmental influences to the course of evolution; the aspect of the environment that most concerns them is food. Food, particularly dietary lipids, is claimed to be the ‘driving force’ in the evolution of animal form especially that of the brain, vascular system and the skeleton. Organisms rely on various lipids as both sources of energy and structural materials, and must obtain some kinds of lipids from the diet.

The book provides some examples of nutritional explanations for the course of evolution. One such is the evolution of flight in birds and bats, which the authors regard as too complex, and the parallel evolution too precise, to have arisen by established evolutionary mechanisms. Instead, they propose that a taste for insects deficient in calcium and nectar led to the evolution of pneumatic bones and flight: ‘Was this change (the evolution of bat wings and dolphin flippers from forelimbs of land mammals) directed by a coincident set of genetic mutations . . . or was there feedback between the natural and physical environment resulting in a change of genetic expression and finally in an alteration of the genetic codes?’ (our italics). As well as being physiologically fanciful, this notion does not accord with the palaeontological facts: ‘Perhaps we forget what the world looked like before there was anything (ie any flying vertebrates) to eat the insects of the air.’

For the full version go to - https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg12517014-300-the-fats-of-evolution-review-of-the-driving-force-evolution-and-the-future-by-michael-crawford-and-david-marsh/



AUTHORS REPLY to New Scientist review

The Driving Force; Food, Evolution and the Future. Michael A Crawford and David E Marsh (New Scientist Review, 27 January 1990).

AUTHORS REPLY to review published in New Scientist. 16 June, 1990


We would like to reply to your review of our book The Driving Force; Food, Evolution and the Future (Review, 27 January, 1990).

The book was written for the lay reader, and offers a new view of the evolutionary process, ranging well beyond the confines of the current neo-Darwinist paradigm.

The “driving force" is the environment – food being the major link between environment and organism - which causes initial genetic diversity. Which itself is specifically non random: selection “favours” or “grades out" the results. Contrary to impressions given in your review, our thesis strongly supports Darwin‘s (l30 year old) theory which—at that time—stated there were two major driving forces of evolution: natural selection and “conditions of existence“. Our only criticism of Darwin is that he over - emphasized “selection” at the expense of environmental, or “impact” energies. It was those who came after Darwin who chose to ignore what he had said about “conditions”.

Darwin suggested that there were so many different external forces acting on evolution, and that their interplay was so complex, that the results may be put down to “chance”. He stressed, however, that the term “chance” was used "more for convenience than for accuracy".

Today’s orthodoxy chains us to “random” mutations and, since Weismann, has remarkably little to say about alterations in genetic expression.

Our thesis suggests that environmental impact energies and chemistry - including food (and such food not exclusively lipid) – causes change in genetic behaviour and later, mutation. This concept provides a simple chemical explanation as to how horses’ toes eventually turned into hooves, for example.

While certain scientific passages are difficult for some uninitiated readers, your reviewers should not have needed us to point out to them that, in a chapter debating hooves and claws, it is the secondates, not the primates, that are being discussed. Secondate herbivores face severe limitations of neural or brain lipids, caused by the destruction of many essential fatty acids in the digestive process. The physiology of primates is, by contrast, elegantly designed to capture the neural nutrients during placental and early development.

Your reviewers failed to mention the essential difference between our thesis and Hardy's (50 year old) aquatic theory. Contemporary biochemical analyses of neural lipids point to the birthplace of the main line of developing hominid as being not the forest, but the land-sea interface, a niche containing incredibly rich resources of the long-chain fatty acids, specifically used in the brain and nervous system. Migration inland, up rivers on to the savannah, would eventually cut off such landlocked dwellers from the finest sources of these nutrients.

To some, your review appeared over-emotional: yet despite its wordiness it lacked any real objective appraisal of the central thesis - that the environment and chemistry, through prohibiting, limiting or encouraging development in one direction or another, collectively represent a major directive force in evolution which has remained largely unexplored. In these days of considerable environmental and nutritional concern, we feel such topics should be re-examined in the context of evolution theory - as they are currently being re-examined in the context of medicine.

To attempt to cast our thesis aside with a review composed at random (there have been 40+ excellent ones) echoes Darwin‘s definition of “chance”: a review written more for convenience than for accuracy.

David Marsh
Michael Crawford