Practical Evolutionary Health
Americans spend almost twice as much per person on health care than the rest of the developed world yet we rank between 20 and 30 on most measures of public health. Why is that? The answer lies in our cultural habits, shaped in no small part by the marketing departments and sales forces of corporate America. Lifestyle and personal habits, in the broadest sense, determine our longevity and functional status (both physical and mental) as we age more than any drug or surgery. Dissecting how corporate America shapes and affects our health requires us to explore several layers. The first layer includes the food, pharmaceutical and medical device industries. But looking deeper at what shapes our culture and therefore our health, we must recognize the way our consumer driven economy shapes our culture with regard to the essential ingredients of health and disease.
This blog will explore the science and economics of health in an attempt to answer the “why is that?” above. The framework of this exploration will utilize a practical evolutionary-medicine perspective.
For a few million years our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers. That period represents more than 99% of our evolutionary history. During that period our sleep habits cycled with the sun, we exercised regularly to obtain food, we ate fresh foods that included wild game and seafood, berries, nuts, tubers and some wild plants, we rested allot, and enjoyed the benefits of small intimate social networks. After a few million years evolving in that manner we introduced agriculture, bred grass seeds into grains, bred wild fruits and vegetables into a variety of agricultural products with very different nutritional profiles as compared to the wild predecessors, and domesticated animals. Beyond that, we entered a period of industrialization that has altered our eating, sleeping, social and exercise habits in a profound and detrimental manner.
Convenience foods have been engineered in human laboratories to present flavors, textures, appearances and just the right mix of sugar-salt-fat to stimulate excessive consumption of nutritionally deplete calories. Mono-agriculture has depleted our soil both quantitatively and qualitatively. Corporate farming and animal husbandry have introduced the unnecessary and harmful use of antibiotics, hormones, insecticides and pesticides in the name of efficiency. Shift factory work has disrupted the circadian rhythm of millions of workers, increasing the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression and accidents to name a few. Artificial light has interfered with the procurement of adequate restorative sleep so essential for health. And modern society has depleted our social network of meaningful supportive relationships and meaningful work.
That is the big picture, but what is the scientific data to support these statements? And what can we do to recapture the essential ingredients of healthy living while bringing home a paycheck? That is what this blog is about.
The Manifesto page represents a summary opinion of important topics related to health.
My posts will generally address topics covered in the Manifesto.
Bob Hansen MD