Previously, I wrote about how Richard Dawkins claimed he was an African Ape. Fortuitously, I ran across an article in io9 by Annalee Newitz, The last time we redefined what it means to be human. Newitz clarifies the current cladogram, a diagram that shows relationships among organisms, for humans and their closest primate neighbors (from an evolutionary standpoint).
Humans today are the species sapiens, the genus Homo, the subfamily Homininae, the family Hominidae, the order Primates, the class Mammalia, and the kingdom Animalia. There are other classifications, like tribe and subtribe, sub family, and other fine tuning, which has made the taxonomic classification of organisms complex, especially because of the use of Latin names. Moreover, there are a lot of similar sounding taxonomic groups for humans and great ape relatives. But let’s try to make it as clear as possible..
Surprisingly, most of the questions I get through emails about “skepticism” ask about the science or myths in popular diet fads. It’s clear that there are a lot of websites, pundits, and websites with pundits who think that changing your diet is the most important thing in the world. Eat this to make your immune system strong. Don’t eat that because it causes cancer. But do eat this because it reduces your risk of cancer. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Drink this. Eat more of that.
My thoughts have always been that the human physiology is amazingly resilient, and as long as you have no chronic diseases, there is nothing one can do that will make the situation much better or much worse. Yes, maintaining levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, iron, and others, are critical, but in the modern world, it’s almost impossible to miss out on those micronutrients. Yes, we should limit fats and “sugars”. But the thing is human physiology is complex, so marathoners eat lots of carbohydrates, and they are mostly healthy. It all depends.
And as I’ve mentioned, you’re not going to prevent or cure cancer with supplements (or presumably foods that are rich with those nutrients). Antioxidants don’t really help prevent cancer. Soy won’t stop certain types of cancer. Nor will certain foods make you lose weight. Most of these beliefs about foods, health and weight loss are based on either a boatload of anecdotal evidence, or use very preliminary laboratory research, make a leap of faith, and assume that laboratory evidence is equivalent to clinical evidence. Then, when the gold standard of research, a randomized clinical trial is done, the results generally show nothing. And in some cases, the negative effect is with the supplement or food.
Lately, I’ve had some interesting conversations with my friend Cathy, who is an artist and designer, about a whole raft of topics in medicine and science. She proclaims she has no scientific background, but she’s intensely curious about science and about what I write, so what else could a blogger want? Recently, we were discussing what constituted a good diet. I was trying to cut through what was myth and what was science, but sometimes it can be difficult to do so. My thoughts have always been that the human physiology is amazingly resilient, and as long as you have no chronic diseases, there is nothing one can do that will make the situation much better or much worse. Yes, maintaining levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, iron, and others, are critical, but in the modern world, it’s almost impossible to miss out on those micronutrients.
(more…) «Eating like our great ape…»