February 09, 2007

Mismatch: Why Our World No Longer Fits Our Bodies

A new book which proposes that human health and lifespan will deteriorate because our bodies are no longer adapted in the increasingly foreign environment in which we find ourselves. I think that there is a three-way race between evolution, cultural change, and medical science. We may very well have sub-optimal genes for our modern environments, and evolution may not be able to catch up with the rates of cultural change, but medical science -by default- allows human beings to counterbalance our natural shortcomings. Until today, it has seemed to won the race, as increasing human lifespans indicate, but perhaps not into the future.

Here is a Guardian article on the book. An excerpt from the publisher:
We have built a world that no longer fits our bodies. Our genes - selected through our evolution - and the many processes by which our development is tuned within the womb, limit our capacity to adapt to the modern urban lifestyle. There is a mismatch. We are seeing the impact of this mismatch in the explosion of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. But it also has consequences in earlier puberty and old age.

Bringing together the latest scientific research in evolutionary biology, development, medicine, anthropology and ecology, Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson, both leading medical scientists, argue that many of our problems as modern-day humans can be understood in terms of this fundamental and growing mismatch. It is an insight that we ignore at our peril.

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