- 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)
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Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease 1st Edition
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Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Dan Ariely on Survival of the Sickest
MIT professor Dan Ariely has become one of the leaders in the growing field of behavioral economics, and his bestselling book debut, Predictably Irrational, has brought his ideas--and his ingenious experiments and charming sense of humor--to a much wider audience. With the simplest of tests (often an auction or a quiz given under a few conditions) he shows again and again not only that we are wired to make irrational decisions in many situations, but that we do so in remarkably predictable ways.
I have always been puzzled by the way in which genetic diseases have managed to survive throughout the ages. How could it be that these diseases were able to withstand the evolutionary process, where only the most fit survive, and continue to be transferred from one generation to the next? Survival of the Sickest provides a thought provoking yet entertaining explanation to this puzzle.
In this insightful book Dr. Sharon Moalem demonstrates how conditions that are considered unhealthy (such as hemochromatosis, diabetes, and high cholesterol), or even deadly in extreme cases, might actually put their carriers at an advantage in combating other life-threatening illnesses. For example, he explains that hemochromatosis, a disease that, if left untreated, will kill you, may have actually been a defense against the deadliest pandemic in history--the bubonic plague during the 14th century. It turns out that this genetic mutation, which continues to be passed down through generations, actually helped spare many lives at one point.
Throughout the book, Dr. Moalem draws many connections between seemingly disparate subjects, such as the accidental invention of ice wine and cold diuresis, in order to illustrate the basic mechanisms of genetics and medicine in charming and intuitive ways. He skillfully interweaves his knowledge of history, genetics, and medicine not only as they relate to specific medical conditions but also in a way that addresses important challenges of modern society and our future evolution.
In the most general terms, Dr. Moalem's description of the human body and its complexity left me in awe of how far we have come in our understanding of biology and medicine, while also being reminded that the road to understanding ourselves is still wide open with much more to learn in the decades, and even centuries, to come. It is a fantastic journey on which he leads us and Dr. Moalem is a kind, knowledgeable, humorous, and helpful guide.
From Publishers Weekly
Moalem, a medical student with a Ph.D. in neurogenetics, asks a number of provocative questions, such as why debilitating hereditary diseases persist in humans and why we suffer from the consequences of aging. His approach to these questions is solidly rooted in evolutionary theory, and he capably demonstrates that each disease confers a selective advantage to individuals who carry either one or two alleles for inherited diseases. But very little is new; the principles, if not every particular, that Moalem addresses have been covered in Randolph Nesse and George Williams's Why We Get Sick, among others. Whether he is discussing hemochromatosis (a disorder that causes massive amounts of iron to accumulate in individuals), diabetes or sickle cell anemia, his conclusion is always the same: each condition offers enough positive evolutionary advantages to offset the negative consequences, and this message is repeated over and over. Additionally, Moalem's endless puns and simple jokes wear thin, but his light style makes for easy reading for readers new to this subject. (Feb.)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting introduction to a complex issue very well written with some humourPublished 7 days ago by Michael Cashin
A great read. The DNA, RNA and protein sequences were old hat by the 70s. This book is well-written and should be read by all with a science background. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
This book, Wade's "A Troublesome Inheritance" and the book "The 10,000 Year Explosion" will open your thinking about the ongoing genetic and epigenetic expansion in... Read morePublished 10 days ago by Bill
It appears that most of the reviewers have never actually read this book. I found it fascinating and fun to read and I have a science degree.Published 13 days ago by puffinswan
A very interesting look at disease from an evolutionary standpoint. I enjoyed this book tremendously. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Cat
Comes to some startling conclusions as to where we are and were we are going as a species. Many unusual insights into the thory of evolution and geological historyPublished 21 days ago by Monica Engel
A five star rating helps those interested ask "why 5 stars" for this book! The author-a woman of science and discovery who writes about very very complicated sciencey stuff with... Read morePublished 22 days ago by Struggling