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Microbes and health in the past/ too much emphasis on diet?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 10, 2010 at 4:50 PM

A lot of people talk about the negative health concequences of the beginings of agricultural diet on our ancestors health. However before the neotlithic many infectious diseases did not exist.

Many new infectious diseases took advantage of the changes in human lifestyles: living in one place, high population density and living close to animals. These new diseases would have had a large negative effect on health. Serious diseases during childhood stunt growth and result in shorter adults for example. In many cases in the past infectious disease had a much greater influence on your survival than what you ate.

Is there to much emphasis on diet and not enough on the effects of disease effecting our agricultural ancestors in the past? Could these have had a bigger effect shaping our recent evolution than our diet has?

This is a video of a public lecture I went to at my university recently that you may find interesting. Link also on youtube link. It charts the history of microbial disease from the paleolithic till today.

"I will contrast the infectious diseases suffered by our hunter gatherer, farmer and city-dwelling ancestors as man's lifestyle has changed through the ages, and show how microbes have exploited every opportunity to infect and reproduce, thereby ensuring their own future.

Finally we will take a look at modern times with our present problems, and I will pose the question: are we better off today than our ancient ancestors were?"

Unfortunatly we now have all these diseases and everyone eating a better diet won't make them dissapear.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:12 PM

I think my comment hinged on the statement of 'too much emphasis on diet.' I disagreed there because there I think is the logical place to put the emphasis if that is the place we can have the most influence and benefit. HOwever, I do agree that from a scientific perspective, considering other issues is valuable and may well come back around and allow added insight and good ideas in areas we CAN have more influence. The body's coexistance with other internal organisms is indeed a fascinating subject in itself.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on November 11, 2010
at 02:11 PM

I like Matthew's question because I think once we understand the role of microbes, we may eventually develop strategies to take advantage of that knowledge. I'm skeptical that we'll develop any good pharmacological solutions, but lifestyle adjustments might do us some good, even for city-dwellers.

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3 Answers

2
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 11, 2010
at 06:18 AM

Matthew, while I agree this area may be relevent to current health, the main reason I don't spend a lot of mental energy on it is because I don't see a lot of options for me actually being able to do anything about it. I guess I could go out in the forest and live as a hunter gatherer, away from all you germ toting city dwellers. But other than that, my main option seems to be increasing my own immune strength via diet and exercise, the same things we often talk about here.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on November 11, 2010
at 02:11 PM

I like Matthew's question because I think once we understand the role of microbes, we may eventually develop strategies to take advantage of that knowledge. I'm skeptical that we'll develop any good pharmacological solutions, but lifestyle adjustments might do us some good, even for city-dwellers.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 11, 2010
at 04:12 PM

I think my comment hinged on the statement of 'too much emphasis on diet.' I disagreed there because there I think is the logical place to put the emphasis if that is the place we can have the most influence and benefit. HOwever, I do agree that from a scientific perspective, considering other issues is valuable and may well come back around and allow added insight and good ideas in areas we CAN have more influence. The body's coexistance with other internal organisms is indeed a fascinating subject in itself.

1
D339c39d94d65460e28128174845f423

(821)

on November 11, 2010
at 11:57 AM

Eva's point is a good one. We can only do what we can. tautology

Ours is not to ponder over what it would be like to move the clock back. Just to understand the past and apply it to this world.

What is important is that maybe we should try and get out of the cities because of all the microbes.

1
95f407502f92a7bc460e8f83652341de

on November 10, 2010
at 05:42 PM

The terrain, or ecosystem of the body is EVERYTHING. That is why some get the flu, some don't, and why some suffer recurrent MRSA infections, and others don't. If you eat a diet that weakens the body and taxes the immune system, you open yourself up to infection.

If we weren't such excellent weakened hosts for these diseases, they might disappear. And on a separate but related note, we need to stop vaccinating. Not only does it WEAKEN the immune system, it does not reliably confer immunity, and we are bombarded by many viruses, used experimentally in the vaccines as "carriers" never before seen in the human body. For modern man, viral load is a critical issue. Many carry these around for life, constantly challenging and weakening immunity and exhausting the endocrine system. We are experimental pigs for a fear mongering pharma-philic society.

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