The transition to modernity and chronic disease: mismatch and natural selection

Stephen Corbett, Alexandre Courtiol, Virpi Lummaa, Jacob Moorad, Stephen Stearns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Industrial Revolution and the accompanying nutritional, epidemiological and demographic transitions have profoundly changed human ecology and biology, leading to major shifts in life history traits that include age and size at maturation, life span, and age-specific fertility. The mismatch between past adaptations and current environment means that gene variants linked to higher fitness in the past, through antagonistic pleiotropic effects, now predispose post-transition populations to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and coronary artery disease. Increasing evidence suggests that the transition to modernity has also altered the direction and intensity of natural selection acting on many traits with important implications for public and global health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419–430
Number of pages12
JournalNature Reviews Genetics
Early online date9 May 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2018


  • Disease genetics
  • Ecological genetics
  • Evolutionary genetics
  • Genetic variation
  • Population genetics


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