ANT208H1 Lecture Notes - Biomedicine, Birth Weight, Antibody

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Published on 22 Apr 2013
School
UTSG
Department
Anthropology
Course
ANT208H1
Professor
Page:
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Evolutionary Medicine - Application of principles of evolutionary theory to practice/research
in field of medicine. Look at proximal (what are immediate consequences of the issue;
how do we solve the disease via biomedicine) and ultimate (why did we evolve this trait;
what purpose does this trait serve) causes for each health issue.
Conceptual Contributions of Anthropology (These make more sense after reading the 3 health
issues below but are what you should take away from the reading)
1) Redefine “normal” based on specific culture / population
-biomedicine is based on what is “normal” in Western Populations
-drugs are often dosed too high for other cultures leading to ill effects on health
2) Development is highly influenced by culture
-immune strength is dependent on breastfeeding b/c antibodies are transmitted through breast milk;
western society is moving away from breastfeeding so new trend of “weaker” immune systems.
-maternal exposure to pathogens has effect on assortment of antibodies transferred through
breastfeeding; ie) mothers from third-world countries are exposed to more pathogens in their lifetime
compared to mothers in developed nations.
2) Must take socioeconomic conditions into considerations
- intragenerational phenotypic inertia = if family has history of glucose intolerance because of low birth
weights (ie. great grandparents, grandparents, parents all born low bw) then mother eating a lot during
pregnancy will not remove glucose intolerance for her kids in one generation.
- this is a problem in poor neighborhoods bc no money to be well-fed.
-low % educated population, teenage pregnancy, crime all limit access to good food, social services,
available opportunities
Anthropological research has primary effect on three areas of evolutionary medicine.
1) Nutritional Health
-ancestral hunter-gatherer diet was drastically different than what humans consume today. way more
calcium/fibre/protein, and a fraction of sodium/fats compared to today.
-cause of obesity + cvd due to over-eating and shitty, calorie-dense, pre-packaged foods.
2) Female Reproductive Health
-early menarche (first period) + fewer pregnancies/lactation-periods = way more natural estrogen cycles
in lifetime = promotes female cancers. Western women now have 100x higher chance of developing
breast cancer than Amazonian women who get first period at 18 and give more births in lifetime.
-preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), gestational diabetes, morning sickness are
evolved responses to promote healthy birthing.
-bodies lowers estrogen conc. + progesterone conc. if unfavorable birthing conditions in order to
prematurely terminate pregnancy. this is an evolved response but is treated as a contemporary
“disease”.
3) Chronic Diseases
-low calories or malnourishment during pregnancy = low birthweight. Therefore, low glucose tolerance
during lifetime since gestation period is a good determinant for future conditions.
-selection favors reproduction over health unless health gets in the way of reproduction, many diseases do
not show their symptoms until later life but genes already transferred to offspring so you cannot select
against these diseases.
-antagonistic pleiotropy - A gene has a two phenotypic effects - one positive, one negative. There is a
tradeoff. Think of male balding as an example. When males are young, have hair which is considered
attractive trait so higher chance of reprod. Lose hair later in life but we have already had kids so they will
bald. If we waited until later life to reprod. bald men might not find mates and offspring would not be
bald. Humans are now developing diabetes/CVD at a younger age and can be selected against.

Document Summary

Evolutionary medicine - application of principles of evolutionary theory to practice/research in field of medicine. Look at proximal (what are immediate consequences of the issue; how do we solve the disease via biomedicine) and ultimate (why did we evolve this trait; what purpose does this trait serve) causes for each health issue. Conceptual contributions of anthropology (these make more sense after reading the 3 health issues below but are what you should take away from the reading: redefine normal based on specific culture / population. Biomedicine is based on what is normal in western populations. Drugs are often dosed too high for other cultures leading to ill effects on health: development is highly influenced by culture. Immune strength is dependent on breastfeeding b/c antibodies are transmitted through breast milk; western society is moving away from breastfeeding so new trend of weaker immune systems. This is a problem in poor neighborhoods bc no money to be well-fed.