Where Do We Come From? Where Are We Going? The Ancestral Health Symposium 2012

"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." —Marcus Garvey

(Lindsay with Paleo Solution author Robb Wolf at AHS11)

I'll start with a disclaimer: Many of you have family, friends, or coworkers who credit their weight loss, disease management, amazing hair, or other miracles to the so-called caveman diet, much to the eye-rolling chagrin of others. I'm one of those people: once a gangly nerd with weak and painful joints thanks to my genetic legacy, the autoimmune disorder ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Terrified at the prospect of being on immunosuppressants for the rest of my life and intrigued by rumblings of this weird fad diet helping AS sufferers reverse symptoms, I gave paleo a shot. And I don't hurt anymore; I'm thriving. And it left me wondering what other wonders we might discover in the past.

What has come to be known as the paleo diet has been around since the 1970s, but in recent times (thanks to the advent of the decidedly-non-paleolithic Internet), it's really exploded in popularity. Of course, anything popular enough begets a conference. Paleo is no exception. This past weekend, the Harvard Food Law Society and the Ancestral Health Society joined to present the second annual Ancestral Health Symposium, which momentarily infested Twitter under the hashtag #AHS12. I attended (and fervently live-Tweeted) the inaugural symposium both this year and last year. With that experience, I can say that there is something happening in what has been dubbed, tragically, the paleosphere. Read the rest

The world, as mapped by frequency of cholera cases

This really fascinating image comes from a Scientific American guest blog post about the appendix. What does the appendix have to do with cholera? Turns out, the more we study the appendix, the more it appears that this organ—once thought to be useless—is actually a storage system that allows your gut to repopulate itself with beneficial bacteria following a bout with a dramatic, gut-wrenching such as cholera.

This theory makes a lot of sense, but it hasn't been proven yet. The blog post, written by Rob Dunn, tells the story of a couple of studies that seem to add further support to the theory. In one, 11% of people with an appendix had a recurrence of Clostridium difficile infection, while 48% of those without an appendix had a recurrence.

Grendell’s results do not prove Parker is right. Science does not work that way. More tests, even true experiments, need to be done. Maybe there was something else that differed between individuals with and without their appendixes. Maybe the result only applies to the mostly white population Winthrop hospital serves. Maybe the immune system plays a more important or different role than Parker envisions. These “maybes” are part of what make science beautiful — the idea that each question, each test, and each day, lead to more questions. Every good question is a road that goes on forever, diverging and bounding forward, sometimes quickly, other times more slowly, as new paths emerge and some of the old ones run straight into brick walls.

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