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A Short History of Beverages and How Our Body Treats Them


Wolf, Asher; Bray, George A.; & Popkin, Barry M. (2008). A Short History of Beverages and How Our Body Treats Them. Obesity Reviews, 9(2), 151-164.


Numerous studies have demonstrated that beverages containing sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or alcohol are handled differently by the body than when sugar or HFCS are incorporated in solid foods and as a result the overall caloric intake from solid food does not adjust to account for the calories in these beverages. A consideration of our evolutionary history may help to explain our poor compensatory response to calories from fluids. This paper reviews the history of eight important beverages: milk, beer, wine, tea, coffee, distilled alcoholic beverages, juice and soft drinks. We arrive at two hypotheses. First, humans may lack a physiological basis for processing carbohydrate or alcoholic calories in beverage because only breast milk and water were available for the vast majority of our evolutionary history. Alternatives to those two beverages appeared in the human diet no more than 11 000 years ago, but Homo sapiens evolved between 100 000 and 200 000 years ago. Second, carbohydrate and alcohol-containing beverages may produce an incomplete satiation sequence which prevents us from becoming satiated on these beverages.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Obesity Reviews


Wolf, Asher
Bray, George A.
Popkin, Barry M.