Cognition paper published!

6 Mar

Ta-da! Finally. Mine and Dr. Hruschka’s paper is finally out in the Journal of Cognition and Culture. This survey work was done over 2 years in both Eastern Europe and Southwestern U.S. So glad to see it in print!

HERE is the PDF: CognitiveDifferences_Paper2017. Also, if you don’t feel like reading it, i just recorded a 5-minute overview of the paper (recorded between meetings.. after 2 cups of coffee.. sorry if I talk quickly!).

Cooking -> Digestion & Energy Uptake (3rd article is out!)

9 Feb

Oh hey- I’ve been so busy with my dissertation defense, I didn’t even notice my third encyclopedia chapter coming out- Cooking: Increased Energy/Reduced Digestion 😀 If you can’t open the full text on the website, the PDF file is also HERE.

Short intro: Cooking food is a unique human activity spanning across all cultures, and humans appear to be evolutionarily adapted to this crucial aspect of their diet (Wrangham and Conklin-Brittain 2003). The value of cooking lies in its ability to widen the range of foods that are safe to eat (whether by making their digestion easier or neutralizing toxic compounds) as well as extract more energy from the foods ingested. Both human and animal studies illustrate that the more cooked food there is in a diet, the greater the net energy gain for the eater (Carmody and Wrangham 2009), and a diet of raw foods is energetically inadequate even when various nonthermal processing methods are employed (Koebnick et al. 1999). The effect of cooking on the energy gain from eating includes several mechanisms: increasing digestibility and thus caloric value of ingested foods, lowering the body’s energetic costs of digesting, and mounting an immune defense against food pathogens.


Passed the Defense! Oh my..

8 Feb

So.. Yesterday I defended my doctoral dissertation. I’m not sure I believe this yet, but I do think i’m not dreaming right now. Almost teared up as my committee members shook my hand and congratulated me. What a journey!


Lay Theories of Healthy Eating: Insights from Cross-Cultural Comparison

I thank my committee for all the advice and support given yesterday: Daniel Hruschka, Alexandra Brewis, and Meg Bruening. I also could not have finished all the data collection (>80 lengthy interviews!) on time on my own without my 8 apprentices. My undergraduate assistants have been quite amazing.

In terms of the bigger picture- there are so many people to thank, so many that have played key roles in my academic journey. The foundation was laid down when I was 5 years old when, despite having to go to the assigned elementary school, my grandmother and parents managed to enroll me into an English-specialized school on the other end of the city. This was right after USSR ended and Ukraine was newly independent and chaotic… Yet my family had the foresight in those rough times to send me on the ambitious path in life!

I do plan to post a short video with some results of my dissertation work soon, since many of my students and colleagues couldn’t be there. Stay tuned!




What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, January 10, 2017

10 Jan

Some great readings on the anthropology of food! I’m particularly going to enjoy the article on preserved foods in USSR 😀


A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Got items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to or

Feeling overwhelmed by all the political changes taking place at one time? Perhaps one way to get a grip on things is to focus on just one aspect of change. You might think about sustainability and food justice in urban environments, for instance. Fabio Parasecoli has written an intriguing review of two new books on this topic right here. The books are Rositza Ilieva’s “Urban Food Planning: Seeds of Transition in the Global North” (Routledge, 2016) and Kristin Reynolds and Nevin Cohen’s “Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City” (University of Georgia Press, 2016).

A team of AP reporters (Esther Htusan, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza) researched and…

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Best Christmas present: a finished dissertation

16 Dec

Two things!

1) I have emailed my PhD committee… my entire dissertation!!! I can’t even fully believe it- are all those months of torturous writing/rewriting/re-rewriting finally over? I assume i’ll need to make changes once I get comments back but- the entire thing is written and sent out, you guys. Best. Christmas. Ever.

I suppose here’s my dissertation-writing wisdom: I’d recommend Not starting a new RA position simultaneously. Preferably, get a dissertation completion grant/fellowship. The time commitment is just too insane. On another hand, I don’t regret getting an RA this past semester- it has added a lot of new skills to my toolbox. Other than this- just stick to it, write daily, and get frequent feedback from your adviser, colleagues, your lab students, and anyone willing to read! Chances are- the process will probably be horrific, but you will make it through.

2) My second chapter on Human Food Preferences is out in the Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science ( DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2943-1 ). Woohoo! This is my favorite one. I was writing these chapters in the summer while traveling and collecting data. I was very nervous back then- instead of beginning my dissertation, I spent 6-7 weeks on these guys. But I made it and i’m glad I pulled it all off within half a year!

Here’s the link to the encyclopedia: (email me if you want a pdf!)


Happy Holidays, everyone!!

First encyclopedia chapter published!

13 Nov


My first encyclopedia chapter is finally published!

I was researching and writing this one while traveling across 3 countries this summer and collecting data, so the whole process was not necessarily a piece of cake. Thus, i’m extra pumped this is finally available! If you want to read the chapter but can’t access it, feel free to email me and i’ll send you the PDF 🙂 -> mvoytyuk (at)


NOTE: It’s actually highly ironic for me to write on how cooking could have been instrumental in the evolution of our large brains- I spent 2 years as a highly motivated raw vegan! Indeed, I took several “raw cooking” and educational courses in different parts of the U.S. (Illinois, California), was a private raw “chef”, and taught raw veganism workshops for over a year at a food co-op I managed.

This chapter doesn’t actually comment on whether there could be health benefits to eating a diet higher in uncooked foods. It does focus on highlighting the fact that we appear to be particularly adapted to cooking. So, I’d say it does not support a 100% raw vegan diet as a worthy endeavor.

Click HERE for the encyclopedia page, and here is the short intro:

The disproportionately big human brain is a conundrum – it is larger than would be expected for a primate of our size, and it is a very energetically expensive organ. Since human basal metabolic rate (BMR) is not elevated to match such a big brain, the extra energy needed to sustain it suggests a dietary explanation. Feeding the large brain would likely require a shift to a high-quality diet: one comprised of energy-rich, easily digestible foods. This hypothesis is supported by a number of anatomical features: smaller teeth, jaws, stomachs, and a shorter large intestine. Two key elements of human subsistence – cooking and meat eating – have been proposed as a possible means of achieving this high-quality diet.

Evolutionary Medicine in action!

13 Oct

I went to a great talk at ASU’s Evolution & Medicine center, where Dr. Stearns from Yale University discussed tradeoffs 🙌🎓. I’d love to invest the rest of this day into summarizing what i’ve learned but i’ve got a dissertation to write, jobs to apply to, etc. etc… So a really short science communication bit is all i can manage!

Short version: Look at this chart.. It shows how mental illness is a result of a conflict between paternal and maternal genes. Notice how autism and szchisophrenia manifest most at the extremes of a newborn’s birth weight.

Screen Shot 2016-10-13 at 2.48.15 PM.png

Long version:  “Imprinted brain theory” argues that maternal & paternal set of genes might have antagonistic reproductive interests: father “turns off” genes that down-regulate fetal growth, resulting in enhanced growth. Mother turns on these genes, inhibiting growth.. Both actions result in normal range of weight of the newborn.

The mother is 50% related to each of her offspring.

The logic behind conflicting interests from the parents is such: since a father is uncertain that a woman’s other and future children will be his, it may be in the father’s reproductive interest for his child to use mother’s resources MORE, while the mother’s interest (considering she’ll be 50% related to all her current and future children equally) is to limit this and have resources for future kids. With polygamous mating, offspring’s genes from the father will be selected to extract MORE from the mother, and maternal genes will be selected to resist such increased extraction of bodily resources.

To simplify: father needs current baby to use up as much of mother’s resources to grow bigger/stronger/have higher chance of future reproductive success because he can’t be sure her other kids will actually be his.

A conflict arises when action of one parent is cancelled by disrupting imprinting- so disruption of maternal interests would result in an uninhibited expression of paternal interests. Such disruptions result in abnormally low or high birth weight (along with other factors such as behavioral aspects- the extremes of which are considered mental illnesses). Extreme genomic imprinting in favor of MATERAL genes will result in lower birth weight, and is argued to cause psychosis (schizophrenia spectrum) while the opposite causing autism spectrum disorders. The chart above shows how such abnormalities in weight are indeed associated with autism & schizophrenia.