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Was diabetes evolution's response to the last Ice Age? Did a deadly genetic disease help our ancestors survive the bubonic plagues of Europe? Will a visit to the tanning salon help lower your cholesterol? Why do we age? Why are some people immune to HIV? Can your genes be turned on -- or off?

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.

Through a fresh and engaging examination of our evolutionary history, Dr. Moalem reveals how many of the conditions that are diseases today actually gave our ancestors a leg up in the survival sweepstakes. When the option is a long life with a disease or a short one without it, evolution opts for disease almost every time.

Everything from the climate our ancestors lived in to the crops they planted and ate to their beverage of choice can be seen in our genetic inheritance. But Survival of the Sickest doesn't stop there. It goes on to demonstrate just how little modern medicine really understands about human health, and offers a new way of thinking that can help all of us live longer, healthier lives.

Survival of the Sickest is filled with fascinating insights and cutting-edge research, presented in a way that is both accessible and utterly absorbing. This is a book about the interconnectedness of all life on earth -- and, especially, what that means for us.

Topics: Disease and DNA

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061842245
List price: $10.99
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More about why disease needs us than "..Why We Need Disease," this book starts the reader on a journey that follows the co-evolution, and integration, of the human species and disease. While this book is mainly focused on the relationship humans have with disease, there are several examples of how disease is just as manipulating in the rest of the animal kingdom. Anyone interested in human evolution, or at the very least the modern health of the species, will find this book interesting. The writing is a bit jumpy and sums up ideas after extended side notes. This is an easy book to read in small sittings or all at once.more
Gripping and educationalmore
Easy reading, somewhat repetitive. As someone in a health professional school I was familiar with much of the ideas in the book and predicted the hypotheses I was not familiar with, but this is still an interesting book worth reading, especially as an introduction to current ideas on how our genetic makeup affects our health.Warning: the metaphors in this book are clunky and frequently inappropriate.more
It's a light look at a variety of diseases and why it would be that they would continue to survive and perpetuate their genes. In the end it leaves a lot of questions, which is only right. Science often hasn't got a clue and a lot of this book is as much speculation as fact, but it admits this.more
Survival of the Sickest gives an interesting and insightful look into disease and evolution, starting with questions about how we could evolve these genetic diseases that seem to reduce our ability to survive as individuals. The authors cover a lot of strange ideas and surprising theories that researchers have produced, whether it's stories about frozen frogs, jumping jeans, stressed out rat moms, or aquatic apes... Somehow, they manage to make the book feel more like a series of really fascinating stories you might tell at a party, even though there's a good chunk of a first year biology course embedded in the stories. This is really popular science at its best, encouraging us to think in new ways and be fascinated by the world around us.more
This turned out to be an utterly fascinating book! I had been thinking, from its title, that the book would be about disease. It is, however, about something else entirely - how evolution and our genetic make-up are closely intertwined. Based on the modern research (Okay, I'll admit I haven't read much about DNA since nursing school), I was astounded by recent discoveries that show how evolution is often based on genetic traits acquired not by heredity, but by environment. This book and the subject are so vast that the ideas could be overwhelming. The author takes this subject in a stride and uses an easy-going and often humorous way of presenting what could otherwise be dry material. Here is one man I'd love to have as a college professor! I must say that, although I might not later remember the technical details of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed its presentation.more
Aquatic apes. Parasites that exhibit mind control over their hosts, forcing them to commit suicide. The reason why a cold lets you go to work but malaria knocks you flat on your back. Benefits of tanning. How your ancestors survived the plague, and why that very reason might kill you in middle age. Fascinating stuff. Do not, I repeat, do not borrow this book from the library. You will want to read it again. Consider it an investment in your sanity for the next time you get the flu.more
The book examines why people with deadly hereditary diseases haven't gotten eliminated by evolution. Moalem starts with a condition his grandfather suffered from: hemochromatosis, which is a hereditarydisease that disrupts the way the body metabolizes iron and accumulates too much of it leading to damage to many organs, and investigates its very interesting origins and its evolutionary advantage. The book deals with other conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, cystic fibrosis, and speculates why evolution let themslip through. Finally, it presents an interesting hypothesis on human evolution, an 'aquatic ape' hypothesis, and new research into the role of the so-called `junk DNA', and `jumping genes'. It's very clearly written and very well explained. On the downside though, it repeats the same ideas several times, and uses too many puns. In the end, I found the theories fascinating, but did not really enjoy the style that much.more
The book started out with a bang...but dwindled significantly by the end. The information was interesting, but the book didn't seem to answer many of my questions. I would recommend individuals check it out from the library - don't waste your money.more
The only word to describe this book is “breezy” perhaps because of the collaboration or ghost writing by a former speechwriter for Clinton, Johnathan Pierce. The individual ideas in biology are very intriguing, but the chapters are fleshed out with a lot of gee-whiz. Dr. Moalem is a biochemistry PhD studying medicine, discusses the evolutionary benefit that leads to persistence of genes for hemochromatosis, G6PD deficiency, and branches into primate evolution and aquatic birth, into cancer and transposons, and methylation of genes. It is a very stimulating book but each chapter seems based on one or two scientific articles, and it is not tied together in one theme.more
Read all 13 reviews

Reviews

More about why disease needs us than "..Why We Need Disease," this book starts the reader on a journey that follows the co-evolution, and integration, of the human species and disease. While this book is mainly focused on the relationship humans have with disease, there are several examples of how disease is just as manipulating in the rest of the animal kingdom. Anyone interested in human evolution, or at the very least the modern health of the species, will find this book interesting. The writing is a bit jumpy and sums up ideas after extended side notes. This is an easy book to read in small sittings or all at once.more
Gripping and educationalmore
Easy reading, somewhat repetitive. As someone in a health professional school I was familiar with much of the ideas in the book and predicted the hypotheses I was not familiar with, but this is still an interesting book worth reading, especially as an introduction to current ideas on how our genetic makeup affects our health.Warning: the metaphors in this book are clunky and frequently inappropriate.more
It's a light look at a variety of diseases and why it would be that they would continue to survive and perpetuate their genes. In the end it leaves a lot of questions, which is only right. Science often hasn't got a clue and a lot of this book is as much speculation as fact, but it admits this.more
Survival of the Sickest gives an interesting and insightful look into disease and evolution, starting with questions about how we could evolve these genetic diseases that seem to reduce our ability to survive as individuals. The authors cover a lot of strange ideas and surprising theories that researchers have produced, whether it's stories about frozen frogs, jumping jeans, stressed out rat moms, or aquatic apes... Somehow, they manage to make the book feel more like a series of really fascinating stories you might tell at a party, even though there's a good chunk of a first year biology course embedded in the stories. This is really popular science at its best, encouraging us to think in new ways and be fascinated by the world around us.more
This turned out to be an utterly fascinating book! I had been thinking, from its title, that the book would be about disease. It is, however, about something else entirely - how evolution and our genetic make-up are closely intertwined. Based on the modern research (Okay, I'll admit I haven't read much about DNA since nursing school), I was astounded by recent discoveries that show how evolution is often based on genetic traits acquired not by heredity, but by environment. This book and the subject are so vast that the ideas could be overwhelming. The author takes this subject in a stride and uses an easy-going and often humorous way of presenting what could otherwise be dry material. Here is one man I'd love to have as a college professor! I must say that, although I might not later remember the technical details of this book, I thoroughly enjoyed its presentation.more
Aquatic apes. Parasites that exhibit mind control over their hosts, forcing them to commit suicide. The reason why a cold lets you go to work but malaria knocks you flat on your back. Benefits of tanning. How your ancestors survived the plague, and why that very reason might kill you in middle age. Fascinating stuff. Do not, I repeat, do not borrow this book from the library. You will want to read it again. Consider it an investment in your sanity for the next time you get the flu.more
The book examines why people with deadly hereditary diseases haven't gotten eliminated by evolution. Moalem starts with a condition his grandfather suffered from: hemochromatosis, which is a hereditarydisease that disrupts the way the body metabolizes iron and accumulates too much of it leading to damage to many organs, and investigates its very interesting origins and its evolutionary advantage. The book deals with other conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, cystic fibrosis, and speculates why evolution let themslip through. Finally, it presents an interesting hypothesis on human evolution, an 'aquatic ape' hypothesis, and new research into the role of the so-called `junk DNA', and `jumping genes'. It's very clearly written and very well explained. On the downside though, it repeats the same ideas several times, and uses too many puns. In the end, I found the theories fascinating, but did not really enjoy the style that much.more
The book started out with a bang...but dwindled significantly by the end. The information was interesting, but the book didn't seem to answer many of my questions. I would recommend individuals check it out from the library - don't waste your money.more
The only word to describe this book is “breezy” perhaps because of the collaboration or ghost writing by a former speechwriter for Clinton, Johnathan Pierce. The individual ideas in biology are very intriguing, but the chapters are fleshed out with a lot of gee-whiz. Dr. Moalem is a biochemistry PhD studying medicine, discusses the evolutionary benefit that leads to persistence of genes for hemochromatosis, G6PD deficiency, and branches into primate evolution and aquatic birth, into cancer and transposons, and methylation of genes. It is a very stimulating book but each chapter seems based on one or two scientific articles, and it is not tied together in one theme.more
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