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Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 266 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060889654
ISBN-10: 0060889659
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060889659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060889654
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (266 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. McEwan VINE VOICE on April 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book about genetics, evolution and disease is a genuine page turner, that's how deeply interesting it is, and how well it is written. The basic premise runs like this: The environment puts pressure on all living things, including humans, to evolve characteristics that help us survive long enough to reproduce and pass on our genes. Over the millenia, various conditions such as drought, ice ages and other climate changes have sparked genetic mutations that enhance our abilities to survive. These include some biological conditions that are advantageous in the short term, but sometimes detrimental in the long term.

For example, today we consider diabetes mellitus a serious disease because it raises human blood sugars to dangerous levels that can result in loss of limbs and sight, among other problems. However, in an ice age, when temperatures were significantly lower than they are now, having extra sugar in the blood may have enabled our ancestors to survive the cold because sugar lowers the temperature at which we freeze to death. Similarly, Sickle Cell Anemia may have evolved to help people resist malaria.

What's especially interesting is that this theory would explain why ethnic groups that are prone to diabetes -- Scandinavians and people from the British Isles, for instance -- originally came from northern areas that were at one time covered by glaciers. And the ancestors of those groups that tend to carry the genes for Sickle Cell generally originated from climates in which malaria was prevalent.

Another intriguing idea is that some "sicknesses" only become serious problems when an individual is older and past his or her prime reproductive years.
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By haley on February 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
You don't need a degree in evolutionary biology to understand Survival of the Sickest. This book gives you a peak into how evolution can actually select for disease, and makes a compelling case for why and how understanding this can shape the way disease is treated in the future. It also explains some fascinating facts - like how some Americans are immune to HIV because they have a mutation and how a person can rust to death but be saved by giving blood. It'll leave you thinking completely differently about your body, and - in some cases - like when it advises that you should take your sunglasses off for a few minutes when you get into the sun so that your eyes can "tell" your skin to be on guard against it, it'll actually affect the way you act.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're a fan of books like The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, I highly recommend Survival of the Sickest. It's full of the same kinds of fascinating insights that make for great cocktail party conversation. As a parent, I was particularly fascinated by the chapter on how what you eat during pregnancy can influence the way your children (and even their children) metabolize their food. And as a health conscious person, you'll get practical, actionable ideas on how to think about personalizing your diet based on your background.
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Format: Hardcover
We're used to thinking of disease as the enemy, as a malicious force that makes our lives shorter and more miserable. That may be exactly what "disease" is on an individual basis--but its value to the species as a whole is a different matter.

Dr. Moalem elegantly explains why medical conditions that are deemed to be diseases today often helped our ancestors survive and reproduce in difficult environments. Take hemochromatosis, a hereditary condition that causes iron to accumulate in a person's internal organs, eventually leading to death. Although the gene that causes hemochromatosis was once thought to be rare, research completed in 1996 found that it's actually surprisingly common. Why wouldn't such a terrible disease have been "bred out" of our species long ago? The answer is that hemochromatosis reduces the amount of iron available to iron-loving bacteria, such as the bubonic plague that depopulated Europe in the mid-1300s. A person living in the Middle Ages with the hemochromatosis gene would have eventually died from iron build up, but in the meantime would have have had a smaller chance of dying from the plague and other iron-loving infections--in an age when few people lived past the age of 50, the disease resistance conferred by hemochromatosis far outweighed the disadvantage that would have materialized if the person carrying the gene had lived to old age. People with hemochromatosis reproduced and passed the gene one to their heirs; those without it died of the plague, without children.

"Survival of the Sickest" is filled with similarly surprising observations.
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Format: Hardcover
From the second I picked up this book, I realized I was in for a fun ride! A unique look at evolution and genetics is mixed with humor and fun facts. You may never look at The Plague, baby fat,alcohol,vikings,or your very own medical problems in the same way. This book is an entertaining trip into our history and future -- a must read!!!
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