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9 - Conclusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Tessa M. Pollard
Affiliation:
University of Durham
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Summary

Living in an affluent western society brings many advantages for health, notably security from hunger and from the serious infectious diseases of infancy and childhood that plagued western countries prior to the twentieth century and continue to inflict a heavy burden on populations in poorer countries today. However, as we have seen, westerners suffer from a characteristic set of relatively new non-communicable diseases, and these diseases are seen in non-western populations at increasingly high rates. In this concluding chapter I first summarise what an evolutionary perspective offers to the study of human vulnerability to western diseases. Next, I consider prospects for the future, focusing on what ‘westernisation’ means for the health of the millions of people subject to its influence, and on the insights that an evolutionary perspective provides in relation to possible preventive strategies.

Human vulnerability to western diseases

This book has shown that humans are vulnerable to western diseases because, as a species, we evolved in very different environments from those experienced today. We can summarise these effects in relation to obesity, in many respects the core pathology underlying western diseases. When the genus Homo emerged, selective pressures related especially to having a large brain led to these early hominins becoming proportionately fatter than other species of the tropical savannah. Humans also evolved under selective pressures imposed by the necessity of eating wild animals and plants and being physically active. The human genotype was ‘thrifty’, making effective use of scarce resources.

Type
Chapter
Information
Western Diseases
An Evolutionary Perspective
, pp. 153 - 172
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2008

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  • Conclusion
  • Tessa M. Pollard, University of Durham
  • Book: Western Diseases
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511841118.010
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  • Conclusion
  • Tessa M. Pollard, University of Durham
  • Book: Western Diseases
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511841118.010
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Conclusion
  • Tessa M. Pollard, University of Durham
  • Book: Western Diseases
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511841118.010
Available formats
×