Survival of the Sickest: Chapters 7-8 (final post)

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  I never really thought about the evolutionary advantages of diseases because society today just views them as a burden.  After reading this book, I find myself constantly questioning things and not just accepting facts with no source.  This was a very interesting book, and I highly recommend it to anybody that’s looking for a good book to read.  
In chapter 7, I learned that ⅓ of American children are overweight.  That’s really disappointing because childhood obesity can lead to many other problems later in life.  Also, I learned that the diets of parents can change a child’s metabolism.  This kind of goes against what we learned about genetics because I previously thought that weight problems could not be acquired.  Additionally, I learned about DNA methylation.  “Maternal effect” really blew my mind when I realized that a mother’s experiences can influence gene expression in her offspring.  After learning about Lamarck, I didn’t think this was possible.   I learned that while your mother’s eggs were inside of your grandmother’s womb, epigenetic influences could have been influencing you even back then.  I found it very interesting that methyl markers can be placed after birth from interaction between mothers and children.  I read that, at times of crisis, the population becomes more heavily concentrated with females because males are more demanding on a mother’s body.  
In chapter 8, I learned about progeria, a disease that causes people to become old prematurely.  This disease leads to the idea of genetic controls for aging, which could potentially be slowed down if technology were to allow it.  I read about the Hayflick limit and how it is a check for cancer.  However, stem cells are exceptions to this limit.  I also learned about the correlation between animal size, threats, and life expectancy.  With a shorter life expectancy, due to external or environmental threats, a species evolves faster.  The reading also covered the semiaquatic versus savanna debate, which I found rather intriguing.  Finally, I learned that most women who gave birth in water did not request painkillers, making me believe in the aquatic ape theory.  
The questions that I still have are: does epigenetics disprove everything that I learned about Lamarckian ideas? Can we provide vitamins (or something of the sort) to mothers that purposefully alter genetic expression in children? If choline can turn off the gene that limits cell division in the memory center of the brain, can we use this to our advantage and expand our memories? Can increased interaction between mothers and offspring really improve brain development? Can we potentially limit the genetic controls on aging without having a greater risk of cancer?  Finally, what does an aquatic ape look like???


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