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This is Dr. Alan Weder at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,
Michigan and today, we'll be talking about
diseases of civilization, our evolutionary legacy.
Evolutionary thinking about human disease has largely focused on the individual.
Our medical model ask questions like,
what exposure did this person have that caused him to get sick?
What genetic variant caused this person to develop a drug toxicity?
These are important questions and I'll consider some of these types,
as I examine the importance of diseases of civilization.
Equally important, but not very often considered are evolutionary questions.
These ask why we get sick?
This type of approach seeks to explain why as organisms,
we are vulnerable to diseases.
It uses the historic approach and concerns issues of natural selection and phylogeny to
determine how these factors interact with
the more traditional mechanistic and developmental aspects of disease.
The last century has seen a dramatic transition from a world of
infectious threats to one and with chronic degenerative diseases predominate.
As we made this transition,
we encountered new biological challenges,
and for many of these,
we are not well adapted.
In this talk, I will address how an understanding of
the chronic diseases of our age often referred
to as diseases of civilization can be informed by consideration of evolutionary theory.
Although many diseases, many cancers for example,
are products of our modern environment,
today, I will discuss the metabolic syndrome.
A syndrome can be thought of as a cluster of conditions found
together more often than predicted by chance alone.
The metabolic syndrome as shown here describes the conjunction of four common conditions,
sometimes referred to as the diseases of civilization.
As with most syndromes,
it is assumed that there is
a unifying underlying process that plays out as several features of the syndrome.
Because this process is not well characterized,
the syndrome is sometimes also called syndrome X.
These diseases of civilization are