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Book Review: Evolution Rx: A Practical Guide to Harnessing Our Innate Capacity for Health and Healing by William Meller

Review by Bruce Bower

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Meller is a modern physician with an eye on the Stone Age. His book offers practical medical and health advice with evolutionary justifications that range from plausible to fanciful.

Meller accepts the premises of evolutionary psychology, a controversial school of thought grounded in the assumption that our bodies and brains evolved to handle Stone Age conditions. Though he sometimes strains to connect illnesses, diet and behavior to their presumed prehistoric roots, he nonetheless provides sensible guidance on preventing disease and promoting health.

Much evidence suggests that Stone Age people ate foods rich in protein and fats, not carbohydrates, for example. Citing this work, Meller recommends a diet tilted toward meat, fish and vegetables.

Because Stone Age people lived in far-flung bands, the spread of bacteria and viruses was dampened. Today vaccinations, including flu shots, prove invaluable to prevent disease transmission, he says. But Meller advises readers not to rely on over-the-counter cold remedies, noting they contain no ingredients to shorten the infection.

Some of Meller’s claims are questionable. In a chapter offering advice about relationships and sex, he asserts that Stone Age women preferred mating with bald guys — because signs of maturity were sexy in a world where the weak died young. That sounds like male-pattern wishful thinking.

Still, this book, which includes contributions from Science News biomedical writer Nathan Seppa, contains prudent suggestions for healthy living in the Information Age.

Perigee, 2009, 309 p., $24.95.

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