In this major synthesis of cross-cultural research, 34 distinguished scientists study 25 common metabolic and degenerative diseases characteristic of all advanced Western nations and then examine their incidence in developing countries, among both hunter-gatherers and peasant agriculturalists. Thus the authors provide a unique opportunity to compare epidemiological data reflecting modern modes of life with data influenced by habits and diets dating back 400 generations to the advent of agriculture, and even 200,000 generations or more to the dawn of man.
The results confirm the view that diseases like hypertension, lung cancer, diverticular disease, and appendicitis are maladaptations to environmental factors introduced since the Industrial Revolution. They also demonstrate that such diseases become more prevalent when Western lifestyles are adopted in primitive societies. Certain studies reveal a regression of disease incidence when exercise is increased and a diet high in starch and fiber, low in fat and salt, is resumed—characteristics of a simpler way of life. Western Diseases greatly broadens our perspective on some of the most vexing health problems in our society. It will be an essential reference for epidemiologists, nutritionists, and gastroenterologists in particular.