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Paperback Survival of the Sickest : The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity Book

ISBN: 0060889667

ISBN13: 9780060889661

Survival of the Sickest : The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity

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Book Overview

Joining the ranks of modern myth busters, Dr. Sharon Moalem turns our current understanding of illness on its head and challenges us to fundamentally change the way we think about our bodies, our health, and our relationship to just about every other living thing on earth, from plants and animals to insects and bacteria. So why does disease exist? Moalem proposes that most common ailments--diabetes, hemochromatosis, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia--came...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Captivating

This book about genetics, evolution and disease is a genuine page turner, that's how deeply interesting it is, and how well it is written. The basic premise runs like this: The environment puts pressure on all living things, including humans, to evolve characteristics that help us survive long enough to reproduce and pass on our genes. Over the millenia, various conditions such as drought, ice ages and other climate changes have sparked genetic mutations that enhance our abilities to survive. These include some biological conditions that are advantageous in the short term, but sometimes detrimental in the long term. For example, today we consider diabetes mellitus a serious disease because it raises human blood sugars to dangerous levels that can result in loss of limbs and sight, among other problems. However, in an ice age, when temperatures were significantly lower than they are now, having extra sugar in the blood may have enabled our ancestors to survive the cold because sugar lowers the temperature at which we freeze to death. Similarly, Sickle Cell Anemia may have evolved to help people resist malaria. What's especially interesting is that this theory would explain why ethnic groups that are prone to diabetes -- Scandinavians and people from the British Isles, for instance -- originally came from northern areas that were at one time covered by glaciers. And the ancestors of those groups that tend to carry the genes for Sickle Cell generally originated from climates in which malaria was prevalent. Another intriguing idea is that some "sicknesses" only become serious problems when an individual is older and past his or her prime reproductive years. So if one of our ancestors had, for instance, a chronic disease like diabetes, it probably wouldn't kill him/her until after the person had children. There are many such fascinating observations and facts in this relatively short book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wonders how things and people got to be the way they, and we, are today.

Eye Opening

You don't need a degree in evolutionary biology to understand Survival of the Sickest. This book gives you a peak into how evolution can actually select for disease, and makes a compelling case for why and how understanding this can shape the way disease is treated in the future. It also explains some fascinating facts - like how some Americans are immune to HIV because they have a mutation and how a person can rust to death but be saved by giving blood. It'll leave you thinking completely differently about your body, and - in some cases - like when it advises that you should take your sunglasses off for a few minutes when you get into the sun so that your eyes can "tell" your skin to be on guard against it, it'll actually affect the way you act.

Captivating and provocative

If you're a fan of books like The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, I highly recommend Survival of the Sickest. It's full of the same kinds of fascinating insights that make for great cocktail party conversation. As a parent, I was particularly fascinated by the chapter on how what you eat during pregnancy can influence the way your children (and even their children) metabolize their food. And as a health conscious person, you'll get practical, actionable ideas on how to think about personalizing your diet based on your background.

Fun and Enlightening

From the second I picked up this book, I realized I was in for a fun ride! A unique look at evolution and genetics is mixed with humor and fun facts. You may never look at The Plague, baby fat,alcohol,vikings,or your very own medical problems in the same way. This book is an entertaining trip into our history and future -- a must read!!!

Incredible book

I read this book in one sitting - it is fascinating and remarkably accessible. Moalem takes a unique and optimistic approach towards investigating the purpose of disease as a way to really understand its role in evolution. The book is packed with insightful anecdotes and leaves the reader less alarmed by disease, and instead with a deeper understanding of its purpose. Most remarkable, the book takes the reader along a journey that connects us to our ancestors.
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