Sunshine Superman

December 22, 2009 at 6:25 AM | Posted in diet, Mental health | 3 Comments
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One all too common consequence of the sedentary, sheltered lives we typically lead these days is Vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all, but a hormone produced by the body when its exposed to sunlight.  Unfortunately, many of us don’t spend much time outdoors these days.  Not only are we usually sequestered away in our homes, schools or offices most of the time, some of us, for fear of being struck by a very deadly form of skin cancer known as melanoma, are limiting our exposure to an even greater extent now by liberally applying sunblock before venturing into the great outdoors for any great length of time.  Although this hasn’t resulted in a new pandemic of Ricketts, it’s become apparent that low levels of Vitamin D can make us vulnerable to a wide variety of other types of health problems, including osteoporosis, muscle weakness, prostate and breast cancer, autoimmune disease, diabetes, schizophrenia, depression, and cardiovascular disease.  In fact, nearly everyday a new clinical study is published showing that Vitamin D ameliorative effects on one disease or another, or showing that low levels of Vitamin D correlate with this or that unhealthy condition. That’s why a recent perspective in JAMA suggests that the minimum recommended daily intake of Vitamin D be revised upwards.  Of course, people might also consider spending a little more time outdoors. A little sun can be good for you.  And a bit of fresh air wouldn’t hurt either.

Misfits

December 22, 2009 at 2:46 AM | Posted in Cultural Evolution | Leave a comment
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Just starting out here.  Initially my posts will consist of short comments that focus on scientific discoveries that pique my interest.  As I get the hang of this I hope to start making longer comments, perhaps delving a bit more into speculative conjecture than a scientist might be prone to doing.  I’m particularly interested in investigating how various aspects of modern human cultures are affecting a human physiology and psychology that from my point of view is generally maladapted to our present circumstances.  It is my belief that modern lifestyles are having profound, and for the most part, negative impacts on human beings.  After all, over many millennia our species adapted to a life spent in small stable nomadic bands that typically had an anti-hierarchical ethos.  Those bands spent much of their days foraging for food, but perhaps less time than a typical person spends working nowadays.  Food that was gathered was shared more or less equally, the more successful foragers knowing that one day they may be dependent on the successes of others in the band for their daily sustenance.  Those who didn’t share were punished, first with shunning, then with expulsion.  Child rearing was probably a shared responsibility, with the women of the band lending support to one another.

Today, life seems to be all about hierarchy.  Hierarchy and social mobility.  Much about our present day lifestyles seems out of balance.  Humans are a social animal, but our sense of community is either dead or dying.  Our diets make little sense.   We get too little exposure to sunlight and too many sunburns, too much fat in our diet and too little of certain fatty acids, too much sodium and too little potassium and magnesium.  Too much stress, and nowhere to run, no one to fight.  Many of us drink caffeinated drinks to shake off sleepiness and then take a pill at night to help us to sleep.   All of these changes coming down upon us in a relatively few generations, and seemingly at an ever increasing clip.  What have been the consequences of this deluge of change?

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