Monthly Archives: February 2013

Toxic Environments

“A powerful way of thinking of metabolic problems such as obesity and diabetes regards toxic environments,” she explained. “One study showed that pregnant women living in areas that had large numbers of fast food places gained very unhealthy levels of weight during pregnancy compared with pregnant women who maybe lived a mile further away. That’s a toxic environment. So the society we live in has its own dangers.”

From Why Are Humans Always So Sick?

The Existence of Cancer in a Species vs The Rates of Cancer in a Species

Here is a thought provoking article that suggests that cancer rates were far lower in antiquity. The study points to low rate of incidence in Egyptian Mummies (less than 1 in 100) as compared to modern prevalence (one in 8 deaths).

One worthwhile point the article linked above references is that cancer was around before humans and therefore cannot be said to be fully the consequence of man-made environmental changes.

However, that study doesn’t preclude the idea that cancer is a often or almost always a result of environmental effects on cell reproduction.

Together, the two points raise the distinction of the existence of cancer versus the prevalence of cancer. Take the following questions:

1) Does cancer exist in non-human primates?
2) How common is cancer in non-human primates?

If cancer in non-human primates is far lower than in humans, it’s worth asking why. Additional clarifications can be made:

3) Do cancer rates increase for non-human primates in captivity versus a natural habitat?
4) Is the full explanation about cancer rate disparity to be located in age?
5) How much of the disparity in cancer rates between primates has to do with the presence of negative environmental factors?

Ways Our Modern Environment Has Changed From the Ancient Past

In the process of making a great deal of progress (especially in terms of things like increased convenience and decreased rates of death due to infectious diseases), our push towards progress has drastically changed our environment. Here’s a list I’ll be developing over time that seeks to identify many of the ways our modern environment has shifted. Some of these things will be fairly innocuous. Some will turn out to have significant effects.

Food

– Greater reliance on less satiating carbohydrates as the staples in our diets

– The introduction of high fructose corn syrup into our diets (HFCS was not consumed by ancient man)

– The diet of the animals that we eat (corn versus grass fed cattle)

– The living environment of the animals we eat (farm raised fish)

– Removed from the source and production of food (ancient people had no choice but to find, grow and prepare their own food)

– Introduction of dyes

– Introduction of preservatives

– More fluoride intake (water)

Nutrition

– less time in the sun (Vitamin D)

– less micronutrients (processed foods)

Activity Levels

– Far more sedentary today (a result of more affluence and less urgency for survival or comfort)

– Not forced to be active to acquire food

– Less physical skill sets (more of an information and entertainment) based economy

– More potential leisure time (though whether this manifests is another question)

– Less time outside

Social Roles

– Increasingly abstract and specialized social roles (compare: hunter vs. bank systems analyst)

– Roles that are only indirectly, as opposed to immediately, related to survival

– Isolation of the nuclear family

Environment

– Introduction of plastics

– Pollutants

– Nuclear radiation

– Presence of electronics

– Introduction of office environments

– Introduction of the modern home

– Cell phone electronics (near brain)

Sensory Input

– Unlimited access to digital stimulation

– Instant, remote, non-local communication

Health

– Introduction of vaccines (has solved many deadly infectious diseases)

– Hospital environments

Cancer and Age

The vast majority of cancer occurs in people over 50.

However, some cancers disproportionately target people in younger age brackets. Hodkins Lymphoma, for example, especially affects people in their 20s and 30s. Brain and nervous system cancers seem to be more evenly proportional across all age brackets. Leukemias, while affecting every age bracket, are especially prone to affect young children from 0-4 years old.

Cancer, which includes a whole host of diseases that involve out of control cell replication, is definitely enhanced by age. Why this is true is not completely clear.

In many cases, such as lung or liver cancers, the accumulation of time often correlates with the accumulation of environmental toxins, which can increase the disruption of normal cell activity and lead to malfunctioning cells that replicate out of control. Cancers that target the young are less clearly related to environmental toxins, though that hypothesis (that environmental factors contribute to cancer in younger humans) cannot be ruled out completely.

A Subtle Distinction: Traditional Porn vs Online Porn

Historically, porn has had a limit. The possessor of porn only had access to so much novelty and variety. However, online porn creates an environment of endless variety. For men, this creates what some have called The Harem Illusion – the illusion of a never ending supply of new mates.

The dopamine reward circuit in the human brain is designed for a context of scarcity rather than abundance. Historically, access to new naked females in a context of mating was a rare event. The male brain is built to take note and to take advantage of this rare event by finding opportunities to mate. The male brain becomes singly focused on this opportunity.

Online porn stimulates this dopamine reward circuit in a context of abundance (as opposed to its natural environment of scarcity): the illusion of a never ending supply of new mates. Men receive pleasure from porn for precisely this reason: it stimulates us with that rewarding feeling that tell us to “go forth and mate” Biologically, males are built to spread their seed as far and wide as possible. Online porn creates the illusion of infinite opportunity for human males.

So that’s the fundamental difference between traditional porn and online porn: the binge mechanism, which triggers the organism to take advantage when resources are plentiful (because in our natural environment they are scarce), finds in online porn a never ending supply of new physically attractive women available, at least visually, in a sexual context. With traditional porn there was usually a limit to the supply.

The Measurement Problem

Modern problems are complex. Smart people disagree about issues as simple as whether there really is an increase in the incidence of things like cancer, heart disease, autism etc. or whether we are just witnessing increased diagnosis.

Further there is the issue of increasing life expectancy and age related diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimers. Could it be that we are witnessing increases in these diseases simply because people are living longer? In other words, did people from the past simply die before they got old enough to see the full brunt of these diseases?

These are questions to explore as Dislocated develops.