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Posted by >>>>> on April 9, 2009

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EVOLUTIONARY MEDICINE IS REVOLUTIONIZING HOW WE SEE HEALTH

Understanding our Stone Age past is the best thing we can do for our health. EVOLUTION Rx, the first-ever book on evolutionary medicine for general readers, explains. “Understanding how we evolved is the first step in understanding what makes us healthy,” says William Meller, a physician and expert in the cutting-edge science of evolutionary medicine. In Evolution Rx: A Practical Guide to Harnessing Our Innate Capacity for Health and Healing (Perigee, May 2009, Hardcover, $24.95) he looks at how our Stone Age ancestors lived and loved, got sick and well and explains what this means for us modern humans striving to be healthy and happy.

Meller is available for interview. Here’s just some of what he can discuss:

EVOLUTION MEDICINE vs. COMMON HEALTH MYTHS. Avoid the sun; Take your vitamins; Stretch before exercising. This are just some of the common health advice that evolutionary medicine calls into question. Our Stone Age ancestors spent lots of time in the sun—so much that we evolved to rely on it as our primary source of vitamin D, which is essential for a wide range of health benefits. Today, most Americans get far too little sun. No matter how strenuous the exercise our Stone Age ancestors never stretched beforehand, and research has shown that stretching causes injuries. Stone Age humans got all of their vitamins from food and so can we. Vitamins and other supplements don’t prevent cancer, won’t help us live longer, do nothing to promote health—and some are even harmful.

THE PRIMAL DIET. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight avoid the latest fad diet and look to the distant past instead. The evolutionary medicine approach to diet includes eating a wide variety of foods, enjoying plenty of good fats, and cutting carbohydrates, like rice, pasta and potatoes—none of which were on the Stone Age menu.

DON’T FEAR TOXINS: OUR EVOLUTIONARY HAZMAT CREW IS ON THE JOB. Stone Age humans were exposed to all sorts of natural threats, including toxins. It’s why we evolved potent defenses against them and why most toxins have to be ingested in massive quantities to be of danger. Although common toxins like mercury, PCBs, pesticides and plastics do turn up in food, their levels are almost always miniscule and are easily detoxified by our livers.

EVEN CAVEMEN GOT THE BLUES: EVOLUTIONARY MEDICINE & PSYCHOLOGY “Emotions evolved as a kind of mental shorthand, instinctive patterns of feeling that help us react quickly to common situations,” says Meller. Sadness, for example, was helpful in spurring us to reassess our current situation and make change. Fear often protected us from danger. Meller explains how we are hard-wired for emotion and how to differentiate between normal sadness and fear and psychological conditions like clinical depression and anxiety disorders.

MODERN WORLD, STONE AGE GENES. “Evolution is a notorious compromiser. Our genes constitute a legacy of what once worked, a testament to the conditions of our past. But as those conditions changed, some of our finest adaptations have become insidious adversaries,” says Meller. Cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease are linked to the genes that once protected us from infections and malaria. Our drive to overeat protected us in a time when food was often scarce; today it’s behind the obesity epidemic.

THE URGE TO MERGE. Next time you log on to Match.com, kick off a round of speed dating, or send an electronic wink to someone in chat room, think back to the Stone Age. That’s because despite the 21st century technology, courtship and attraction are still driven by age-old impulses. Meller will explain how evolution shaped attraction, why the female orgasm serves and important evolutionary purpose, and offer what he calls the “evolutionary prescription for playing the mating game.”

PARENTS: YOUR KIDS ARE TOO CLEAN! The Stone Age was a dirty, grubby time and in this mucky world our immune system learned to distinguish friend from foe. It’s still true that being exposed to dirt and bacteria “educates” our immune systems. Today, many kids live in sanitized homes and spend little time outdoors, so their immune systems don’t get this kind of on-the-job training. The result: a spike in allergies and a revealing link to the rise in autoimmune diseases. The solution may be as easy and fun as encouraging your kids to play outside and get dirty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR William Meller, MD, is a board certified internist as well as one of the nation’s leading practitioners of Evolutionary Medicine. Having explored health customs and traditions in Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Mongolia, Peru, Argentina, and many other countries, Meller has discovered new connections between ancient indigenous medical practices and our evolutionary roots in the robust, nomadic tribes of the Stone Age. He has in turn integrated these discoveries with the most up to date medical research into his successful medical practice at the MedCenters of Santa Barbara (CA), a clinic with three offices and some 36,000 patient visits annually. He is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has also served for more than a decade as a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California. He also co-teaches a pioneering course on evolutionary medicine in the College of Creative Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Meller received his undergraduate degree from UCSB and his M.D. from the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

I BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW… QUIRKY FACTS FROM EVOLUTION Rx Seen in an evolutionary light, many of our common behaviors, beliefs, and health conditions take on a new meaning. In Evolution Rx Meller offers many examples of this. Here are just a few:

• We are evolutionarily programmed to gossip.

• In the Stone Age bald men were hot.

• We may be genetically predisposed to fear snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies.

• Shopping is essential for survival, the modern-day equivalent of something we have been doing for millions of years: hunting and gathering.

• ADHD was a plus for Stone Age humans, and can be for modern-day ones too.

• Morning sickness is actually good for you.

• Laziness helped us survive.

• Fatty foods don’t make us fat.

• Ice and heat don’t help for sprains and strains.

• More than 70 percent of all cancers are easily preventable.

• Pregnant women need to eat fish.

• Salt is good for you.

• The way to prevent peanut allergies is to eat peanuts.

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