Acne and anthropology

1 minute read

The Freakonomics guys have a blog, and this week they are having guest posts from Seth Roberts, who has developed a new diet through self-experimentation. Usually I don't go for that kind of thing (and I don't endorse any diet), but he has an interesting anecdote today about science, acne, and experiment.

I point to it because it refers to biological anthropologists as the kind of scientists who are more "with it" than medical researchers:

A few months ago I saw a dermatologist about a different problem. I couldn't resist: What causes acne? I asked. Well, not diet, he said. I knew this was false. And, really, how could you say such a thing without testing hundreds of different diets -- at least? Which no one had. Several years ago I asked my friend Katharine Milton, a Berkeley anthropologist, whether the indigenous people she studies have acne. No, she said, unless they eat foreign food. The anthropologist was right, the doctor was wrong. The situation reminded me of something in an NIH-sponsored online medical encyclopedia: dental malocculsion, it said, "is most often hereditary." Whereas the work of Robert Corruccini, a professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University, such as this, had convinced me that dental malocculsion is due to soft food.

I like to point out when we shine.