Our bodies and body processes evolved to allow our ancestors the best chance of survival as hunter-gatherers in the Savannah. Our brains, on the other hand, have evolved intelligence, imagination, and foresight, allowing us to leave all other creatures behind, and develop complex societies, cultures, and lifestyles, far removed from those of our ancestors.
The development of a modern human in utero still reflects our past, and we have created a modern, artificial world that is out of tune with our evolved bodies. Could it be that this mismatch has led to the current deadly explosion in 'lifestyle' diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and will it lead to increasingly frequent epidemics? We appear unable to evolve out of this problem, and unwilling to return to a different way of life, so how can we understand and address this increasingly crucial challenge?
Gluckman and Hanson set out the case, examining issues that are at times controversial and speculative. Utilizing the latest research in epigenetics (that genes may be environmentally modified), they propose that intervention in early human development, alongside a better focus on the health of potential mothers, can make future generations better suited to the modern world.
1. Our comfort zone
2. Where have we come from?
3. When we were very young
4. Things ain't what they used to be
5. Constrained by our pasts
6. Coming of age
7. A life of luxury
8. Four score years and ten
9. Match and Mismatch
"Thought-provoking [...] this book conveys admirably, for a non-specialist reader, the implications of an important idea."
– Michael Sargent, Nature (Books and Arts Review)
– Laura Howes, Chemistry World
"Essential reading for anybody interested in the fascinating complexities of human biology [...] A most timely and innovative contribution to the popular debate about genes and the environment."
– Robert Winston, from the Foreword
"A fascinating and important journey through the development and evolution of human health."
– Lewis Wolpert
"Some possible solutions are suggested here, but for the most part Hanson and Gluckman just lay the cards out on the table for you to contemplate, which is refreshing. They offer a very humane insight that can help us all make sense of the modern world and our place in it."
– Margaret Bartlett, Health and Fitness