Public health was born in antiquity (or even earlier). Modern public health emerged in the 19th century and transformed society. Separation of sewage (shit/crap/poo) from drinking water; vaccines; and more recently antibiotics and modern medicine mean that humans live more than double our biological expectations.
Humanity is at an inflexion point. We have mentioned the main historical transitions, from hunter-gateherer through agriculture and the emergence of cities – civilisation that it engenders. Then capitalism and science, that magic combination for multiplying growth leading to industrialisation, the replacement of muscle power with machine power. Now the replacement of mind. Google knows all.
Now is half-way between past and future. In the last chapter we ran through human history from single-celled life through hunter gatherers to advanced capitalist economies. Science and capitalism transformed the world. Many have been left behind, but luxurious living conditions for the masses, and an ever more years of expected life are some of the positive results of capitalism. Science continues to offer new technologies, and now the replacement of human mind, in the same was as muscle was replaced by the steam engine.
We started to get fat when we used machines instead of our muscles; and then invented gyms so that our muscles would be used to no purpose. What will happen when machines think better than people; what will we do with our minds? Do they not already cause more trouble, more worry that joy?
How to get to Utopia? Utopia is based on two Greek words: ou ‘not’ + topos ‘place’; it does not exist! The word was first used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More. Plato described a Utopian state nearly two thousand years earlier, in The Republic, ruled by Philosopher Kings. For Marx, it is the classless state, the end of exploitation.
Marx described history as the struggle between classes, those who produce and those live off their work. If the promised era of machine produced everything becomes reality, technology could deliver a classless state. In feudal times, the nobles lived off the work of the peasants. Capitalism has been through many changes since the time of Marx. It has progressed to provide better conditions for workers. The role of the state has expanded, to include provision of health, education and welfare as well as security.
In future, the what will be the role of the State, when all produce is made by machines.
I got lost. Or so it may seem. The criss-cross of different threads do not yet build a story. Our story, starts from the Big Bang and then goes in so many different direction. Covering a tale that is complex, and already told many times before. You may get lost again, but here goes.
Nature, the planet on which we find ourselves is a strange and wonderful being. She is bountiful and cruel. The gendered word for Mother Nature seems apposite: we all are born of mother. And so the Universe itself is female, fecund, full of life. Perhaps this female pole is a trigger for the rise of the Patriarchy with Agriculture. The Amazonian may have been more typical in our hunter-gatherer past, the Stone Age.
(You remember, the Bible has two creation stories, in the first Ze created man and woman equally, the second Eve was created to serve Adam)
A plate full of anti-oxidants or food for your bugs.
From the mid-1980s until this millennium, there was much hope in the potential to use anti-oxidants like Vitamins A, C and E to prevent cancer and extend life. Some evidence showed associations with health. Since anti-oxidants reduce damage to cells from it was plausible that supplements might prevent cancer. But the trials not only failed to find protective effects, there was even some suggestions of increased risk.
It was disappointing, but why did they fail? Antioxidants are clearly important for cellular health, but the molecular machinery that keeps us alive is complex; and single element solutions (‘magic bullets’) tend not to work. Even the original magic bullets of modern medicine, antibiotics are facing critical resistance. (Luckily, vaccines still seem to work well.)
I interpret the failure of the anti-oxidants as another example of the problem of processed foods, especially the highly processed and very tasty foods that subvert our biology, including fizzy and sugary drinks. Or carbonated drinks in general probably.
The loss of nutrients from the processing is often remedied by adding back nutrients. But there are also many phytochemicals that can be lost in processing; for example fibre that is a key source of energy for our microbe.
One theory is that most of our “Western Diseases” (like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many more that are largely caused by modern lifestyle, especially our diets) is caused by inflammation. And that this inflammation is caused by bugs eating other bugs and/or our immune cells that live on and in the gut, respectively. And one reason they do this, is failure to feed them their diet of green and red leaves. Or whatever kid of vegetable fibre they feed off best.
So, the whole plant food that we eat provides chemicals both directly and indirectly (though the action of the microbiota) that contribute to our metabolism. They are not essential for life, but add to health. We know that eating more fresh fruit and vegetable is good for health – but also too expensive. Sprouting lentils is very cheap, and tasty – once you have adjusted your tastebuds; if they are used to very tasty highly processed foods. Recall, they have bee scientifically designed to make you addicted, or at least craving this deadly foods full of sugar, additives, and highly processed ingredients.
All highly speculative; but will you take a 2-week test to see what happens when you re-adjust your diet, cut out CRAP (carbonated, refined sugar, additives, processed food). If you don’t feel 100% better – you collect the refund of your desire. If you are already feeling 100% well, I would still expect a 10% improvement – but do you know what 100% feels like?
In addition to the limits of evidence, especially when clouded by commercial interest – or unexplored for lack of it, there are many problems with the above statement, but I know if you believe it will increase the chance of a successful trial, if you are willing to give two weeks to it. But you have to also be 100% committed, as it is not easy. Much less easy that you may think it is; though some of you will think it much harder than it actually is.
Food is the unity of life. Let me explain.
We were ‘designed’ to eat whole foods; and have mostly benefitted from traditional processed foods like bread and milk. Highly processed foods, including sugar, seem to be the cause of most modern ills. These foods tend to be low in anti-oxidants, another reason for their attraction as supplements. But that failed!
The evidence for a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables continues to grow Green leafy vegetables are particularly important not only for nutrients and anti-oxidants, but also because it is the food that some specific species of bugs in our microbiome.
A recent study found that a mostly whole plant based diet without processed foods but with extra olive oil, a modified mediterranean diet, was effective in treating depression. If you already have diabetes, or at risk of diabetes, you can reverse your disease- but it takes radical change in what you eat. It will be hard for two weeks; after that your palate adjusts. Understanding and dealing with a food craving is not easy. Nor is feeding it.
Only a few generations ago, the germ theory of disease was a new idea. Understanding the root cause of illness, as being caused by a micro-organism, too small to be seen. But made visible by microscope, culture, and now nucleic acid amplification. The last now providing a new window into the bugs that live in and on us. We discover that a human being is made up of more non-human cells than human; the countless organisms that call us home. Have you heard of the face mite?