Survival of the Sickest: The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity
Sharon Moalem, with Jonathan Prince
Harper Perennial, New York, 2007
372 pp., $13.95 paperback
The title, Survival of the Sickest, is certainly an attention grabber. The author is presumably disputing Charles Darwin's evolutionary precept, survival of the fittest. The cover features a quote from a review of the book by Dr. Mehmet Oz, saying this book, "challenges everything we thought we knew about disease." The book indeed questions accepted common knowledge. Sharon Moalem is up to the task of explaining these new concepts. Briefly, his thesis is that certain nonfatal genetic changes can engender negative metabolic alterations making the organism weaker but less susceptible to other acute life-threatening diseases and thus ensuring their survival. Sometimes the stories are tortuous and circuitous, but the author ties all the ends together at the close of the chapters.
Dr. Moalem discusses hemochromatosis, a hereditary disease that relates to iron metabolism. He explains its symptoms, its pathophysiology, the relationship of iron metabolism to other maladies and the body's overall...