Darwinian Medicine

Essay by egreenb1College, Undergraduate April 2006

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Darwinian medicine is a method of finding explanations for vulnerabilities to diseases from an evolutionary standpoint. Darwinian medicine doesn't look for the causes of diseases for an individual, but instead looks at why everyone is vulnerable to a certain disease. The observations of pregnancy sickness and spices are two wonderful examples of Darwinian Medicine in action.

Why is there pregnancy sickness? Pregnancy sickness is something that is present in almost every pregnant woman around the world. It was first seen as a sickness that needed to be cured, something caused by an infectious agent. Yet Profet was able to see that pregnancy sickness could be beneficial to the survival of the baby. She theorized that perhaps the growing embryo was not able to tolerate the harsh diet of their mother. Low and behold, in 1940, evidence rose to show that woman with more severe pregnancy sickness were less likely to have a


In Billing and Sherman's Antimicrobial Functions of Spices: Why Some like it Hot, they observe the different uses of spices in cultures and the benefits of spices. They determined that adding spices to foods inhibits the growth of microorganisms, and therefore protects from diseases. This is why spices are so popular in hot climates, because they are more susceptible to food borne diseases and spices help get rid of this problem. This relates to Profet's theory of pregnancy sickness; expelling certain spices or food during the early months of pregnancy serves to protect the mother and the embryo from food borne illnesses.

Darwinian Medicine is key in unlocking the mysteries of why everyone is vulnerable to certain things. Even the simplest things, like why we bruise, or why we get fevers have a deeper reason. Researchers like Profet and Billing and Sherman help bring us closer to...