Is It Really Survival of the Fittest

Posted: December 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
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This blog post is going to be more of a rant then anything.  This may be due to the sun being M.I.A. in Massachusetts over the last few days with below freezing temperatures.  Seasonal Affective Disorder aside, I think this is an important topic to discuss and that is the phrase “survival of the fittest” and how it applies to modern medical research. Without understanding evolutionary biology we may never even slow down this trend of increased morbidity.

We are seeing ever increasing rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc.  Our current solutions to these issues are to wait until lab work shows there is a problem and prescribe a medication.  Why are these genes not weeding themselves out of our gene pool?  According to Charles Darwin shouldn’t the strongest and healthiest genes be the majority?  The answer to that question is that is not how it works.

None of the diseases mentioned above affect reproductive fitness.  Plenty of overweight, type 2 diabetics, with a high risk of cancer are able to reproduce.  They are also having as many offspring as those that are lean and at low risk of disease.  This is allowing for those genes to stay in the gene pool and to flourish.  No magical medication is going to reverse this tide.

We attempt to solve all of these diseases by coming up with new medical treatments.  How can we solve these issues without understanding why these genes are expressing themselves?  Theodosius Dobzhansky said it best, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  Our medical industry is attempting to make sense of biology by developing pills and surgical treatments without first looking at the reason the genes even exist.  In understanding the evolutionary backbone of these diseases we can develop treatment protocols that focus on prevention!  It is a lot cheaper to prevent disease then to treat to it!

Not to bring politics into it, but Obamacare is not the answer to solving the driving costs of healthcare.  How about we revamp our research system to take Dobzhansky’s advice and to look at evolutionary biology as a starting point and understanding why it exists and what the potential benefit is. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, low back pain, and many other common ailments are mismatch diseases.  We did not evolve to live in an environment in large groups with abundant processed foods available at every turn.

We evolved to eat sugar, store fat, and be lazy.  These actions would have been advantageous to us when food was not so abundant.  Once we understand these evolutionary mechanisms we then can use current day biochemistry to help us combat the environment in which we live.  Maybe if the researchers in charge of developing our dietary and physical activity protocols would understand evolutionary principles they could actually recommend something that works. 

Believe me when I tell you it is not a high carbohydrate, low fat, low calorie diet that is going to solve any of these issues.  When the Standard American Diet does not work the answer is always to cut fat and calories more.  This drives hunger through the roof, down regulates the thyroid, decreases mood, increases cortisol, and negatively affects sleep.  Maybe if we developed an understanding for WHY the person is gaining weight and/or developing disease we could have a better plan of attack. This is scientific research 101!  End rant.




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