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Western Diseases
An Evolutionary Perspective


Part of Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology

  • Date Published: April 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521617376

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About the Authors
  • As a group, western diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, allergies and mental health problems constitute one of the major problems facing humans at the beginning of the 21st century, particularly as they extend into poorer countries. An evolutionary perspective has much to offer standard biomedical understandings of western diseases. At the heart of this approach is the notion that human evolution occurred in circumstances very different from the modern affluent western environment and that, as a consequence, human biology is not adapted to the contemporary western environment. Written with an anthropological perspective and aimed at advanced undergraduates and graduates taking courses in the ecology and evolution of disease, Tessa Pollard applies and extends this evolutionary perspective by analysing trends in rates of western diseases and providing a new synthesis of current understandings of evolutionary processes, and of the biology and epidemiology of disease.

    • Only scholarly treatment of this topic to have been published in the last 20 years
    • Synthesises advances in evolutionary theory and in epidemiological understanding of the most important diseases, other than HIV/AIDS, facing humans today
    • Ends with an assessment of the future of western diseases, showing how poorer populations around the world are on the brink of an epidemic with huge consequences for human health
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… a powerful and compelling evolutionary analysis of the 'diseases of civilisation', a stellar achievement … every medical student, practitioner, and researcher in the field of human health should read it.' Peter T. Ellison, John Cowles Professor of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University

    '… a beautifully written, very up-to-date review of the most current information on the chronic illnesses that best modern peoples.' Daniel Brown, Professor of Anthropology and Coordinator of Research and Graduate Studies, University of Hawai'i at Hilo

    'Pollard offers new ways to approach old problems and never shies away from pointing out the sometimes surprising gaps in our present knowledge. This is an excellent text for undergraduate and graduate students interested in public health, medical anthropology, reproductive ecology, biological anthropology, and/or evolutionary medicine.' Professor Lynnette Leidy Stewart, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

    '… Western Diseases persuades us that we can only understand health and disease in an evolutionary context.' American Scientist

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521617376
    • length: 236 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • contains: 21 b/w illus. 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. An evolutionary history of human disease
    3. Obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
    4. The thrifty genotype versus thrifty phenotype debate: efforts to explain between population variation in rates of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
    5. Reproductive cancers
    6. Reproductive function, breastfeeding and the menopause
    7. Asthma and allergic disease
    8. Depression and stress
    9. Conclusion.

  • Resources for

    Western Diseases

    Tessa M. Pollard

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  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Anthropology and Global Health; Human Biology
    • Diseases and Human Evolution
    • Evolutionary Medicine
    • Human Biological Variation
    • Topics in Biological Anthropology: Evolutionary Medicine
  • Author

    Tessa M. Pollard, University of Durham
    Tessa Pollard graduated from the University of Oxford with degrees in Human Sciences and Biological Anthropology. She is currently a lecturer in Biological Anthropology at Durham University. She conducts research on risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in western and westernising populations.

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