Is there a nexus where Anthropology, Epidemiology and Microbiology meet?

So what is it that I want to study, if I do go back for a PhD?

Well I’m still interested in Anthropology and more precisely, Food Anthropology. I’m interested in how food plays an integral part of daily culture and how even those foods that might be bad for us (e.g. bread!) are held with such high esteem. I’m interested in what paleolithic man ate and why he never had dental caries. If he didn’t get eaten by a saber toothed tiger, would his life expectancy have been longer?  I’m interested in Weston A. Price’s studies on native peoples whose facial structures morphed dramatically after switching from their traditional diet to today’s modern foods, overabundant in grains, sugar, and processed… crap (?) – what we affectionally call SAD (the Standard American Diet). And I’m interested in knowing how different populations have adapted to certain foods of today, such as Scandinavians being the only real ethnic group with the ability to still digest milk into adulthood. Finally, I’m interested in studying more traditional methods of preparing foods, such as fermenting fruits, vegetables and dairy, and soaking beans.

I am also interested in how our modern diet is affecting chronic disease. So I think this falls under the category of Epidemiology.  Having spent a number of years running Stuffed Pepper, I can say with certainty that Gluten Sensitivity is not just a fad diet for celiac wannabes, but in fact a real disorder that has far-reaching consequences, and which scientists are still unraveling. I want to learn more about what diseases gluten can potentially cause. Under that realm falls many (if not most?) autoimmune disorders. Obesity is of course a huge problem in the US and other countries, as well, and surely our diet has something to do with this. And what about the rise in food allergies? They are most likely because of leaky gut, caused by (among other things), gluten. But these theories need to be backed up with scientific evidence, and that is why I am most interested in the epidemiological side of things, too. We need charts and graphs to back us up, baby.

At the cross section of Epidemiology and Food Anthropology, is Medical Anthropology, at least in my mind (and on my Venn Diagram). Which could be a possible course of study for me as well.

Finally, I am interested in Microbiology and specifically microbiology of the gut. I want to know more about the effect of grains on gut health. Are just gluten grains bad? What about the other grains? I am fascinated by lectins, and especially WGA, and want to see them in action. I am also interested in the health of the gut, the diversity of flora and fauna that exist there, and the complications that arise when the gut is damaged, such as as the missing GLUT5 receptor on the intestinal border brush, that causes fructose malabsorption in its absence. How do we repair the gut, once its been injured? How do we replace the good flora and fauna, once they’ve become extinct from the gut microbiome?

Yes, I have a lot interests, and a lot of questions. But they all fit together somehow. I would love to do a combined degree where the three disciplines of Anthropology, Epidemiology and Microbiology meet. But does such a nexus exist?


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