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HEALTH Q & A

Dr. William Meller talks about his book 'Evolution Rx'

Diet, stretching, cancer and more.

July 06, 2009|Lori Kozlowski

When it comes to our health, you might think that medicine has evolved to a point where we, as a species, no longer need to listen to cues from days of old.

Dr. William Meller, a board-certified internist who runs a medical practice in Santa Barbara, argues to the contrary. He writes in his new book, "Evolution Rx: A Practical Guide to Harnessing Our Innate Capacity for Health and Healing," that health concerns today are best remedied by listening to our bodies and paying attention to evolutionary clues.

Here, the author talks about his book.

In your chapter "Sunrise, Sunset," you write about people needing sunlight, possibly more than we are getting. What about skin cancer? We are told to stay out of the sun as much as possible.

This is the dominant, conventional thought pattern: that the sun would kill us if we didn't block it out, or at least age us faster.

The fear of skin cancer is vastly overblown. Basal cells and squamous cells are directly related to your genetic makeup. Very easy to recognize. They almost never metastasize.

Melanoma -- the one that scares us. That one is keeping us out of the sun. It is directly related to genetics and not to the amount of sun exposure. This is shown by the fact that melanomas occur as commonly in young people as older ones and because it often appears on parts of our bodies that are never exposed to the sun.

But because of this fear of the sun, we have an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis. And maybe even depression and other cancers.

Diet -- you advocate low carb instead of low fat. Why?

We found places like caves that people lived in for 30,000 or 40,000 years. The caves sometimes got sealed off by a landslide, so they were preserved well. We'd go in and sift through the sand and get a good sense of what they ate. We'd look at the bones of these people and determine what they ate. Looking at that evidence and our own physiological makeup, we learned that carbohydrates were extremely rare in human diets. If you look back, they didn't have grains. At most, they ate grains two out of the 52 weeks of the year. It was mostly hunting and gathering.

The old adage "work through the pain" -- yes or no?

Stretching is vastly overrated. We've made a cult out of it. And it's not just yoga.

Ligaments only get damaged from being stretched too far. When you feel pain, it is a muscle that got stretched too far and tore. The idea that stretching it again is going to heal it is nonsense. Every coach and trainer has said at one point: "Run through the pain and walk through the pain."

What the body wants is to rest. The body knows how to heal itself. If you stretch, you are simply repeating the injury. It goes against modern conventional wisdom, but if you really look at it, it makes sense. Pain is a message from your body. It is your brain saying: Don't do that.

Your body is a sophisticated system for telling you what not to do and how to heal.

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lori.kozlowski@latimes.com

For an extended interview, see "Evolution to your rescue -- Q&A with Dr. William Meller" on the Booster Shots blog.

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