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Book and Media Reviews
May 5, 2010

Principles of Evolutionary Medicine

JAMA. 2010;303(17):1756-1760. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.558

How often has anyone said after reading a textbook, “Wow, what a great read!”? That is what I just did. Peter Gluckman, along with Alan Beedle and Mark Hanson, have written a wonderful introduction to the principles of evolutionary biology and defined ways in which these principles can be applied to understanding human disease.

I would recommend the first part of the book, “Fundamentals of Evolutionary Biology” (150 pp) to any reader, whether medical professional or layperson, interested in a clear, concise, complete, yet eminently readable introduction to modern evolutionary theory. The authors not only manage to give the reader a sense of how human beings are inextricably linked to their evolutionary past—hairless apes, as it were—but also provide examples of traits, such as menstruation, menopause, having unusually fat infants and an unusually short intestinal tract, needing vitamins C and D, that are unique to humans and a few of their ape relatives, and how these create exciting medical puzzles for evolutionary biologists to explain and physicians to treat.

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