Open Notebook / Just Read: Go Wild

Go Wild, cover

The fascinating and comprehensive evolutionary perspective on human health presented in Go Wild by Dr. John Ratey and Richard Manning compellingly describes the importance of nutrition, exercise, sleep, socializing and contact with nature in our lives. While the tone can seem bombastic at times, the writing brings together a great collection of research findings and stories into an enthralling arc. It’s like The Social Conquest of Earth meets The Wild Life of Our Bodies meets Your Brain on Nature and then some.

Here are some passages from the book I found quite striking.

Humans are the Swiss Army knives of motion.

The evolution of our unique brains was locked into the evolution of our wide range of movement.

…nomadism, bipedalism, and omnivory—are defining for our entire genus and have accrued over the course of two million years of hominid history.

…the calorie content made available to your body is, in fact, to some degree dependent on the type of bacteria in your digestive system, a population that varies wildly from person to person.

…a study in 2011 showed that eating trans fats greatly increases the risk of clinical depression…

“One researcher in education—not in nutrition—performed a meta-analysis of all peer-reviewed research on proven methods to increase a child’s intelligence (that is, boost academic performance). The conclusion: “Supplementing infants with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids [specifically omega-3s], enrolling children in early educational interventions, reading to children in an interactive manner, and sending children to preschool all raise the intelligence of young children.”

Annual per capita sugar consumption in the United States was 5 pounds per person in 1700, 23 pounds in 1800, 70 pounds in 1900, and 152 pounds today. Continue reading

A Tour of the Immune System Elements in the Gut—Wow

Worried about potential pathogens in food? The short video below by Nature may assuage some of your concerns, but food safety and personal hygienic practices are of course always important lines of defense.

A beautiful summary of the sophistication of immune system elements in part of the digestive tract, this visual depiction of scientific understanding really ups my appreciation for the amazing processes occurring in the human body. The soundtrack also contributes an epic feel to the whole cellular drama.

What the appendix does, where cows came from and more—The Wild Life of Our Bodies

Wild Life of Our Bodies, coverThe moment that made us human in that series of happenings was not the language, the gods, or even the ability to draw Rubenesque women in stone. It was when we decided that when a leopard stalked the cave, we ought to go after it and kill it. When we decided to kill a species not for food or in self-defense, but instead in order to control what lived and what did not live around us, when we did that we were then fully human. From The Wild Life of Our Bodies.

Listening to a recent Science Friday interview with Dr. Rob Dunn, I was enthralled by the discussion of who we share our homes and bodies with on a microscopic level. Yearning to find out more about the variety of relationships we have with other organisms, I got a copy of Dr. Dunn’s book The Wild Life of Our Bodies which is a fascinating collection of stories about the organisms that make us who we are and how they and we have changed each other over time. Continue reading