Thursday, January 30, 2014

Searcher: Hygiene Hypothesis

In the readings for this week, specifically chapter 5 of “Medical Anthropology,” the chapter examines the extent that a child’s environment has on the future outcome of his/ her life. Traits such as potential height, onset of puberty, and birth weight were studied in relation to the child’s upbringing. The effectiveness of the immune system is another important aspect of health that is heavily influenced during the stages of childhood. It has been found that the rates of autoimmune disorders and allergies are higher in developed countries than those in non-developed countries1. This trend has led researchers to develop the hygiene hypothesis. The hypothesis states that the high rates of immunological disorders in areas of high health standards are caused by a lack of exposure to microorganisms and infectious agents. Due to the low exposure, the immune system does not properly develop and difficulties in differentiating between harmless and pathogenic/ harmful agents increase2. Similar to the health topics detailed in chapter 5, immunological development is shaped during childhood where abnormalities during maturation can remain into adulthood- even through the adaptive immune response. This explains why people who suffer from asthma, allergies, Celiac’s disease, etc. carry it during the entirety of their life (although symptoms in some cases may diminish over time). It has been proposed that lifestyle changes can be made to reduce the chances of a child developing immunological disorders. These include having a natural childbirth, breastfeeding, having a pet in the house3, and allotting more time spent outside to increase contact with symbiotic microorganisms.

Searcher Role: Vegetarian Diets for Children

     The readings for the week focused on the affects of infancy and early childhood on adulthood. As you all know, topics included things such as breast feeding, exposure to pollutants, birthweight, onset of adolescence, gender, etc. For my role as a searcher I found a few science blogs that discuss vegetarian diets for children. There is a lot of resistance vegetarian adults face from meat eaters, people like to say that it is unhealthy and nutritionally incomplete. Some people respect the lifestyle, some people ridicule it. But when vegetarian parents decide to enforce a meatless policy at home meat eaters argue that it would be unhealthy for developing children. Since our readings dealt with the effects of early child hood on adult life I chose to seek out information on whether vegetarian diets were harmful to children. According to these articles vegetarian children grow up to be as big and strong as meat eating children. Against the popular belief that children will be denied essential proteins and nutrients, “Children who avoid meat products also have a reduced intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, pesticides, preservatives and food additives, and are less likely to risk exposure to meat-borne illnesses.” A vegetarian diet can set up healthy eating habits that will transfer over into adult hood that can potentially lower the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol in adulthood that accompanies fifty years of eating cheeseburgers. There are in fact limitations, children who are developing need a high amount of calories which translates to more food, picky eaters would present an issue. Iron deficiency is an issue for the adult vegetarians that I know, so close attention to that is required especially in children. Against traditional and popular belief, much like what occurred in Chapter 12, it is found that children can in fact be vegetarians and live full healthy lives. 

Hey all!

Hello my fellow classmates! *waves enthusiastically* My name is Sandra.

I’m a little late (by a week or so…) but I hope that doesn't detract from the fact that I am very excited to be a part of this class. Anthropology classes, to me, have always been thought-provoking. To be able to trace back the evolutionary history of diseases and how they impact us today, well, makes me feel pretty psyched about the course. It’s a topic I haven’t touched base with but am intrigued by.

So does it have much to do with the wider scope of my studies? As a linguistics major, anthropology certainly fits. However, it is not my focus. I wish to one day travel abroad and teach English. But who knows? Anthropology might come later into the picture. Aha. I like too many things. It’s a serious issue (but a good one, as some have frequently told me). Besides the basics, some fun facts are in order:

AHEM. *coughs* I play the piano, am absolutely terrible at sports, am learning the beautiful Korean language, enjoy horror movies, play too many video games, watch anime/read manga, consume high quantities of caffeine on a daily basis, and can at times appear to be in my own imaginative world.

Now onto some interesting course-related blogs I have found while traversing across the internet!

Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, Vincent Racaniello’s (Ph.D.) blog on virology is extremely informative and up-to-date. He provides readers with podcasts, news, and even links to artists inspired by the microbial world and virus inspired crafts for the virology dorks out there (...anyone?)

This website attempts to bring about an understanding in the evolution of drugs/substance abuse. This particular stop on my journey through the web helped me unravel my mind a bit and perhaps it will allow you to as well. I began to think about human addictions and obsessions. I started to wonder exactly why some people choose to cultivate strange obsessions most people would find bewildering.  We emotionally and physically invest ourselves in things that do not benefit the survival of our humanly bodies and minds. Where along evolution did we and why did we begin obsessing over things?

Rather than the peculiar oddities of the bad, here is a blog about how to maintain your well-being! Always important to have a blog like this to check out.

Lastly, here’s another link for funsies and for anyone interested in learning about diseases within video games. :D

I hope to have a fun and stimulating semester with you all. I've never been a part of a blog so I hope my personal approach wasn't too off-putting.

Until next time!


Hi everyone! My name is Gloria Asante I am currently a junior majoring in anthropology. I am taking this course, because my career goal is to become a doctor, and this course will enhance my knowledge on the evolution of medicine. This course also links science and anthropology together, which helps me kill two birds with one stone.
This blog could be related to this course, because it discusses Darwinian medicine which is very similar to evolutionary medicine. This blog discusses how evolution has affected medicine, for example it talks about the antibiotic resistance and the reasons why disease causing genes persist. This blog can enhance our understanding of evolutionary medicine.
This second blog was very interesting to me. This blog discusses Darwinian medicine and evolution, and it also tied in evolutionary medicine. There were some great points made in this blog, points such as if fever made humans reproduce more and increased life expectancies natural selection will favor fever no matter how harsh fever is to humans. This statement from this blog really moved me; because it is helps me understand that natural selection is in control, even though we try to battle it, by creating antibiotics and things of such nature. Natural selection still finds its way, and this is why certain bacteria are starting to resist these antibiotics.

This last article does not necessarily talk about evolutionary medicine but it talks about how evolution is occurring within the polar bear community/environment. How they are now starting to hunt on land, because the ice is melting.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

First Reader Response - 1/26

I found the article “When I was Your Age” to be very relevant to society and this class. I have often found myself looking at people who are younger than me, especially high schoolers and middle schoolers and think of how different they are from me and often think I acted better than them in small ways such as being more respectful or even  focusing on my work. These are only a few years between us unlike adults who look at me with decades between us. I realized though that this is because I have already learned so much and have just learned to more about life and have matured. I am now able to reflect back on my past and see how those time periods shaped me and that is what the article was trying to point out. I can also see how this relates to the class by looking at how there are many different factors that shape how we act and how we view the past. When we are in positions that force us to “grow up”, then we step up to the challenge. Luckily the majority of us are offered that privilege to grow up at a more leisurely rate

What I noticed while reading through chapter 5 is somewhat similar that the article in that the society we are born into affects both how we grow up and our overall health. Looking at the studies that were done for development, I noticed the authors constantly had to address many factors that could have influenced the results. For example looking at milk and trying to determine if it was the calcium that actually helped us to grow or whether it was simply from all the nutrients. When the study just gave milk to students they noticed a different in growth, but when another study gave students either milk meat or fat, there was not a really noticeable difference. I think this is something important to remember throughout this class to look at how society affects health along with the actual biological processes. It is clear from the readings that these cannot always be separated and there are some conflicts between our biological processes and societal standards. For example the case of early menarche and how the authors talk about STDs, teenage pregnancy and psychological problems as possible results of society saying a person has reached maturity at one point and our bodies telling us differently. These differences will be helpful to look at to see how our society works and if maybe we need to change our thinking in order to help alleviate medical problems.

First Reader Response-

After reading this week's material, I have found that "When I Was Your Age" followed the same thinking as I do. For example, I believe as humans we either step up to the plate or, well, fail. However, I believe the majority of the population handles responsibility and growing up rather well when faced with challenges. I also found myself agreeing with the author when she states, "if we have to grow up, we do it. If we don't, it's far nicer to linger". As a senior, I find it a little intimidating knowing that I am supposed to be a full-fledged adult in a few months, and of course I would love to "linger" in my college phase. However, this is not the case, and I have to embrace the next step of my life.

At times, I have often pondered overall human development as it relates to the physical and mental states. Although I haven't taken an anthropology course or had any lessons on evolution, I was always curious as to how humans have developed that "sense of responsibility" and the transition into adulthood. I also have wondered when an individual is considered an adult; more so, what makes an individual an adult? For example, is a human considered an adult when he or she turns a certain age, or when they achieve success, or rather when they take on an "adult" role such as parenthood? I hope these questions can be answered through discussions and readings as I would like to know other's thoughts on the matter. I suppose this will become a question of biology and culture, as we have previously discussed in class.

Chapter: 1 -First Reader-

Near the end of chapter 1, there is a section, titled “Are we less healthy than our ancestors?” (EMH, 52) Throughout reading the first chapter, I found myself asking the same question almost every other page.  “Maybe so and then again, maybe not’ is probably the most reasonable answer to the question.” (EMH, 52) so says the textbook, in response to the question. For a college textbook, hasty conclusions should definitely be avoided, and EMH gives a proper response to support why “Maybe so and then again, maybe not” is a good answer, but, as an opinionated individual on the internet, I want to give a more definitive answer to the question, “Are we less physically healthy than our ancestors?”

We, defined as modern people living in Western Civilization, are less healthy, on average, than our hunting and gathering ancestors. My personal definition of good physical health is a state in which a being can perform physical labors that are within the realm of reason for something of their species. For instance, a horse in good physical health can gallop and we have no reason to believe a horse that cannot gallop is in good health. I believe this to be a correct definition of good physical health because it necessitates physical strength and endurance, while barring unreasonable labors in a case by case matter for each species of animal.

According to our textbook, modern-day foraging people must perform “high levels of daily activity in search of food, water and temporary sleeping sites.” (EMH, 3) therefore, they prove capable of performing physical labors that are within the realm of reason for something of their species, such as carrying supplies and moving to find food. Our ancestors were also foraging people, and so their daily lives also consisted of similar activities of contemporary foraging people, so they show they are also capable of such physical labor.
People of Western Civilization do not often engage in strenuous physical activity and a common side-effect is an inability to walk up stairs without becoming out-of-breath. Because so many people are plagued by this side-effect, we can assume that those of Western Civilization, on average, cannot engage in more demanding physical labors that are within the realm of reason for someone of their species, like the labors of our foraging ancestors.

Thus, our foraging ancestors were healthier than modern people living in Western Civilization.

First Reader

Both of the readings this week I found to be very interesting because the article “When I Was Your Age” pertains to us college students and the in the reading of chapter 5 I found the section about the relationship between milk and height ironic because that has come up in my life before.
Most of us are either entering our twenties in the next two or so years, or are already currently in our twenties. Throughout reading “When I Was Your Age” I felt as though I could relate to it easily. I have grown up with older siblings and they always talk about how different my generation is than theirs, so although I don’t get the old  “Back in my day” talk I still can relate to this article. The part that I really liked said:

“We forget those same periods of stagnation in our own lives and focus instead—and selectively—on the moments where that stagnation gave way to something new and was stagnant no more. No wonder that in comparison, the youth of today suffers. Over. And over. And over.” (Konnikova, 2013, para 15).

I found this to be interesting because I do always feel as though older generations are always looking down on ours saying that we have it so easy, but we do have hard times just like them, they just don’t see them like we do.
            In the chapter reading, I was most interested by the milk and height part because when I was younger my mom would always make me drink milk and would say that she wanted me to grow in a healthy way. Therefore when I read about it and saw that there really is a correlation between it and that the health benefits it related to my life. The way that we grow is an extremely important topic and I can’t wait to discuss it!



Chapter 1 First Reader

The reading from the first week of class was chapter one which is just a summary of what the book will be covering. There were so many different topics that it covered I got a little bit overwhelmed. A few things that caught my attention in the reading were evolution, vaccines and viruses, nutrition, human reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth. The other topics did not catch my attention as much as the ones I have listed here. 
Evolution is one of my favorite topics to learn about. I am always interested in how things evolve and change. I found the reading on page four, paragraph two surprising. Why is it that people think evolution is something you believe in or do not? Rather put, why is evolution considered in the United States or Western cultures as a belief system? My thought to the answer would be it has something to do with the religious aspects of peoples lives. However it is still something I cannot fully grasp even being a person of Christianity myself. 
My favorite part of the reading was over reproductive health. I had never thought about the reproductive lives of our ancestors before reading this section. I am curious to learn more about what effects the menstrual cycle has on the female body. I have wondered for a while about how many menstrual cycles a female has in the course of her life, but I have never bothered to look it up. The numbers 350-400 seem small to me, but maybe that has something to do with birth control. Of course reading that our ancestors only probably had around 100-150 is very surprising even though it probably should not be. 
The section on pregnancy also answered a lot of questions I have had. One of my friends just had a baby and she talked about morning sickness a lot. Especially, how it was for her was all day not just in the mornings. I had been wondering why women get morning sickness, or rather nausea while they are early on in their pregnancy. It makes perfect sense that it would be a defense mechanism. I am looking forward to covering more on this topic if not in this class but possibly in another.
I am looking forward to going over the question of whether or not we are healthier than our ancestors.


Friday, January 24, 2014


My name is Edward and I’m a freshman majoring in biochemistry. Although non-related to my major, I have always had a deep interest for history and how events in the past shaped the world we live in today. I took this class since it offers the topics of certain diseases that pertain to my major as well as the history behind these diseases. 

This blog contains a large source of information on common viruses as well as events that lead up to vaccine development. Not only does it focus history behind the vaccine, it also has posts on the current events surrounding vaccinations such as the anti-vaccination movement and the ethical issues of developing new vaccines.

Ongenetics is a blog dedicated mostly to the field of genetics. It offers effective explanations surrounding aspects of the genome alongside medical research and implications on human health

Dr. Leonardo Noto’s blog covers a wide variety of topics relating to life sciences. Unlike the previous blogs, Noto’s blog is less formal as he explains topics in a humorous way, adding in aspects of his personal life.

The post that I found the most interesting within these blogs was in Noto’s blog. Specifically, “Are Genetic Diseases Evolutionarily Beneficial?” ( In this post he explains why specific diseases are attributed to certain human populations. Noto reiterates the fact that sickle cell disease is more common in humans of African descent due to the protection it offers against malaria for those who are carriers. He further states cystic fibrosis is prevalent amongst those of European descent because of the commonness of cholera during historic times. I found this interesting as it demonstrates how the interactions between our ancestors and their environment are somewhat encoded into our DNA. To apply this concept to myself, you need to know a secret about me: I’m Asian. I’m also lactose intolerant. It has been shown that people of East Asian descent have a high rate of lactose intolerance whereas those of Northern European descent have some of the lowest rates. These rates are explained as dairy farming originated and was dominant in Europe while it was much less common in Asia and Africa. Therefore my genome is not so much influenced by a debilitating disease, but instead influenced by my ancestors asking themselves “Do I really want to drink this stuff coming from that thing?”    

First Blog!

Hey all!  My name is Rachel, and I am a senior majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Integrative Biology.  My primary focus is Bio Anth, and I’m thinking of going into the Public Health field once I finish school (although Forensics is giving that thought a run for its money :p). I’m taking this course because, although I don’t know much about Evolutionary Medicine, I’m fascinated by the idea that human health and wellness can be better understood by studying our evolutionary history.  This is an idea I’ve only recently begun to hear little blips about here and there, so I’m very excited to learn even more.

Here are a few blogs that I found interesting. - I think the authors describe this one best: “A conversation about biological complexity and evolution, and the societal aspects of science.” - lots of science-y posts that are fun, interesting, and easy for the layperson to understand - many health-related blogs in categories all over the map (also, who doesn’t love NPR?!)

So, one of the posts I found super interesting and could not stop reading (even the comments) came from the first blog on my list.  This blog is written mostly by a few Anthropology faculty members at Penn State, and the particular post I’m referring to is a criticism of Evolutionary Medicine.  It seems the main argument against EM (at least according to the authors of this blog) is that there is a question as to whether it is clinically relevant/useful because it doesn’t provide diagnoses or treatments for disease in the same way as traditional medicine.  In my opinion, this post was a little too dismissive of EM.  Who’s to say that further research in the field of Evolutionary Medicine couldn’t offer diagnoses, treatments, or, even more importantly, methods of prevention for various diseases?  

Here’s the link for the specific post.

Goodnight everyone!   

First Blog

Hey everyone. My name is Daniel and I am a second year undergraduate student. Just last semester I finally declared myself as a Molecular and Cellular Biology major. I signed up for this class because I heard the new MCAT would put more emphasis onto evolution and thought this class make give unique perspectives on it.  The three blogs I found that I thought were relative to the class are:

The first link is a post about why the knowledge of evolutionary medicine is not as popular as teaching the mechanisms in which diseases attack the body. The second link is a post explains how there has been a push to teach more about evolution in medical school. The last link explains how vaccines and antibiotics may be less productive and even gives rise to more deadly strains than exposing you to small doses of vaccines/antibiotics and letting your body’s immune system fight off it off itself. I really enjoyed the first blog post ( ) because it introduced me to what evolutionary medicine is. Before I started looking into this topic, I was unaware of other types of medicine aside from the more conventional ones taught in school. Reading this has sparked an interest in me for evolutionary biology, but also explains why I have not come across the topic of this type of medicine before in my previous studies.
My name is Janell and I am a sophomore majoring in MCB.  I signed up for this class because the doctor in me loves learning about disease and I thought this would be the perfect chance to learn all about how diseases came to be and how our fight against them has evolved. 
The three blogs that I thought correlated with this course and would be helpful throughout the semester were Scienceblog, the Evolution and Medicine Review and the Rough Guide to Evolution.

This blog is about all the different areas of science, ranging from medicine to psychology to physics.  The blog not only posts writings about new research findings and discoveries but also consist of regular people posting about their love for all things science.

The Evolution and Medicine Review is a much more formal blog that focus on the medical aspect of science. Their posts consist of findings, medical events occurring throughout the world and also answers to intriguing questions

The final blog I found focuses strictly on evolution.  The bloggers on this site discuss mostly about the life of Darwin and possible causes that led him to his findings.  

One post that caught my eye in the Evolution and Medicine Review was one in which they discussed an article written in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis that stated that scientists tend to disregard how the cardiovascular system came to be or why it came to be. In the post they provide the summary showing that the cardiovascular system was needed in species 600 million years ago in order to survive diffusion. Through their summaries of important articles it could become easier for us to come across different aspects and discoveries about evolution. 

Introduction post

Hello everyone, my name is Dominic Varela and I am a sophomore majoring in Health Administration. I enjoy talking business, and looking towards my future I have confidence that the health care system will always need the business side taken care of, and it will never decrease in importance. I took this specific class because it was one of my requirement toward my major, but also because I heard a lot of positive reviews on this course and thought even though it was a requirement, I will still enjoy it. I am excited to see what this course has in store for me, and I am interested in learning about how far our medicine has come, as it will give light how one part of our health care system works.

This blog stood out to me for a few different reasons, overall I thought it had some important messages that were geared to individuals that needed information and an explanation of health care implementations.

This blog was more geared to the educational side of science and medicine and had quite a few posts that helped out educational wise, while also having some humor throughout the site.

This blog seemed interesting, and had a lot of posts based on different scientific discoveries over the years, specifically concentrated on the world of medicine.

I felt that this blog stood out to me the most for a few reasons. One main reason was that it was had quite a few scientific blogs that related to the average human. This is important to me, because it is not the type of blog where individuals make posts that the average educated individual will have a hard time understanding. Another reason why this post stood out to me was it had quite a few posts that got a lot of people involved and commenting on their posts. I believe a blog that has a lot of traffic bringing in different comments, has to be a important blog to read when it comes to health and medicine.

Haley's First Blog Ever!!

Hello everyone!! My name is Haley and I am a sophomore. My major is Elementary Education. My goal in life is to be a second grade teacher. I am taking this class because it meets one of my requirements to receive a science endorsement. Receiving this endorsement allows me to have the option to teach a science class in middle school. I am interested in evolution, which is why I thought that this class would be interesting to me.


I found this blog very interesting! This blog talks about how going through cancer treatment can result in the loss of sexual desire and arousal. This is interesting to me because something that is supposedly good for you turns out hurting your body in other places. This shows us that sometimes the evolution of treating disease can affect us and cause some more problems.

This blog was super interesting to me because it is a woman that went through breast cancer treatments and posted picture of her breast and what they look like after a lumpectomy. She wanted to show women what they should actually expect when going through things like this. In response to doing this, Facebook and some other networks thought that doing that was inappropriate.

This blog is about a lady that was pregnant and found out that she had skin cancer. She was super afraid because she couldn’t have surgery to get the skin removed since she was pregnant. She tells us her story and what she goes through.

I found the stupid dumb breast cancer blog was very moving to me. I feel this way because my aunt had breast cancer and unfortunately died from it. I think that it is good for women to know from women who are actually going through the treatment process and what they should accept. I think it would mean a lot more to women to hear and actually see what to accept from women that actually went through it and not a male doctor that never even had it before. Breast cancer sucks and I find it inspiring that this lady posted pictures like this for people to see.


Hi my name is Zarin! I’m a freshmen majoring in Anthropology and I’m currently thinking about also majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology. The reason why I chose to take this class was because I have always been interested in evolution and I thought it would be really interesting to learn about how certain diseases came about.

I personally find the last blog I posted to be the most meaningful to me because my grandma and one of my aunts died of ovarian cancer, so I really I appreciate that there is a blog such as this one, because a lot of the time ovarian cancer is underrated compared to other cancers. It has information on scientists that are doing research in this field, they provide information about the symptoms associated with ovarian cancer, patient programs, and it also lets people donate for cancer research.  
The post that I liked the most was this one: The blogger was so young when she was first diagnosed with cancer that I can hardly imagine what it must have been like for her. She was just 17 and she already had stage four cancer, but she persevered and fought though it, and now she can have a normal life. I think this blogger gives other women and the families on this site hope that they can too also have a normal life one day with treatment.