Tag Archives: Science-Based Medicine

Paleo Diet Advocates Fear Modernity

…according to David Gorski at Science-Based Medicine.

Gee, I hadn’t noticed that fear.  Maybe it’s subconscious.

Dr. Gorski makes some good points along with others I disagree with.  I expect the commentators at SBM will address many of the controversial points.  They’re a smart readership.

One uncommon observation of his is that the “complementary and alternative medicine” believers tend to embrace the paleo diet and lifestyle.  I’ve noticed that also.  To the extent that the CAM folks are often unscientific or anti-scientific, those of us examining the paleo diet from a scientific viewpoint have to be wary of “guilt by association.”

A major point that Dr. Gorski didn’t address is that living hunter-gatherers studied over the last century or two don’t have nearly as much cardiovascular disease and death as modern Western societies.  That’s a common meme in the paleosphere, started by the prominent paleo book authors.  (I’ve not reviewed the original sources.)  I’m talking about lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, peripheral arterial disease, and premature death.  Note that the mere presence of atherosclerosis may not correlate with these hard clinical endpoints.

Is Evolutionary Medicine a Valid Concept?

Not Harriett Hall, M.D.

Dr. Harriett Hall over at Science-Based Medicine has written a couple reviews of “evolutionary medicine” books.

Of the 2009 book, Dr. Hall writes:

Seeing everything in medicine through evolutionary glasses impresses me as more of a gimmick than as a clinically useful approach. Evolution clearly informs medical practice, but I can’t see the value of “evolutionary medicine” as a separate discipline and I can’t recommend this book.

 Her conclusion about the 1994 book:
I’m sorry, but I just don’t “get it.” Am I missing something? Am I just a contrary curmudgeon? Evolution is already an essential part of all science. Medical scientists already understand evolution and apply its principles appropriately. I didn’t see a single example in their book of any significant practical development in medical care that would not have occurred in the general course of medical science as it is commonly practiced, without any need for a separate discipline of “Darwinian medicine.” Evolutionary explanations, whether true or speculative, may satisfy our wish to understand “why,” but I can’t see that they have much objective usefulness.  Instead, they have produced at least one major annoyance: a movement that preaches to us how we ought to revert to the supposed diet of our ancestors (the Cave Man Diet, etc.).
My sense at this point is that evolutionary concepts do have a place in modern medicine, a role that has not been adequately explored and exploited.