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Biochemical Individuality Paperback – September 11, 1998
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Dr. Williams conducted his own studies, as well as drawing on the work of others, to show that each of us is different. One chapter describes differences in anatomy, outlining how even such vital organs as hearts and stomachs vary in size, shape, and physical location from person to person.
The chapter on pharmacology explains how, even though the chemistry of each is known, drugs effect people in different ways, due to differences in body chemistry. That's why what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another.
Dr. Williams says that "while the same physical mechanisms and the same metabolic processes are operating in all human bodies, the structures are sufficiently diverse [that] the sum total of all the reactions taking place in one individual's body may be very different from those taking place in the body of another individual of the same age, sex, and body size."
His observations led Dr. Williams to theorize that each individual also had unique nutritional needs, and that determining and meeting those needs would help combat disease.
Although written in academic language, Biochemical Individuality is of interest all readers who recognize "there is no such thing as a truly 'normal' individual" and that people have "unique biochemical profiles based upon their own genetic structure, nutrition, and environment."
Unless you have a rather uncommon interest in anatomical or biochemical trivia, the literal contents of this book will probably not interest you. After all, how many people are interested by how many different stomach shapes there are, and how common they are? But if you are -at all- interested by medicine, and the more philosophical questions that medicine raises, the implications of the contents of this book will probably be of great interest to you, and quite likely prompt you to reconsider some of your beliefs and understanding of medicine.
Williams' exhaustive lists of all the differences in the human body is in stark contradiction to the reductionistic medical thinking, where diseases are often diagnosed by checklist-based symptom clusters and then treated with one size fits all "blockbuster" drugs. After having read, perhaps at times even slogged through, all the differences that Williams lists, you are left with no room to doubt that the differences among human beings are so great that medicine ought to be geared towards noting the differences among humans, and devising individualized treatment regimens that take advantage of these differences, rather than forcing human beings into "one size fits all" "production line" medicine, as often happens when medicine is reduced to standardized treatment algorithms that (sometimes) flowchart into one of a handful of "blockbuster" medications, based on studies reported by researchers oftentimes wearing the rosiest of sunglasses. If you base an endeavor on flawed or inadequate premises, the results of your efforts can only transcend these flaws through serendipitous (and unlikely) errors.
Medicine, as Hippocrates already wrote, is ultimately an art, and not a science; this book provides a timely and useful reminder of this fact of life to anyone with a true interest in or passion for medicine. Heartily recommended.