Health and Wellness

The Roots of Health

Meredith Rhodes Carson

The Roots of Health – Ancestral Health with Dr. Aaron Blaisdell: Part 1

The Roots of Health explores the disconnect between our health and our modern environment. In other words, we look through an ancestral health lens to evaluate how we eat, move, sleep, and create community today might be harming our human health, which evolved under a completely different set of circumstances (different foods, movement, sleep, and community structures).

Ancestral health is about gaining perspective of the human species, and all of its evolutionary pressures, and it’s a framework for you to begin to understand your own health more intimately. It’s about fundamental human health.

This week, Meredith talks to Dr. Aaron Blaisdell, Professor in Learning & Behavior and Behavioral Neuroscience in the UCLA Psychology Department and founding member of the Ancestral Health Society about what Ancestral Health is all about. It’s a tough topic to nail down – because this perspective can be applied to all aspects of human health.

In Part 1 of the interview, Dr. Blaisdell answers the questions: What is Ancestral Health? What piece of the ancestral health puzzle is most fascinating? How does diet quality affect our wellbeing? What is the easiest way to shift toward an ancestral approach?

There are many dietary and lifestyle approaches out there that are rooted in the Ancestral Health approach, including Paleo, Primal, GAPS, SCD, Weston A. Price, Ketogenic, Walhs Protocol, Perfect Health Diet… Understanding the basis for Ancestral Health and being aware of the current research will allow you to tailor your own approach to diet & lifestyle. Meredith has a resource to help you navigate this new approach, it’s called Teach Me How-To Paleo.

Dr. Aaron Blaisdell’s Bio:

After receiving his BA and MA in Biological Anthropology (at SUNY Stony Brook and Kent State University, respectively), Dr. Blaisdell realized that animal cognition was even more interesting than dead humans. So he trekked on over to SUNY Binghamton for his Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology with Dr. Ralph Miller, where he studied learning, memory, and temporal cognition in the rat. This was followed by a brief stint as an NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Robert Cook, an expert on Avian Visual Cognition at Tufts University, where he learned how pigeons perceive and think about the world. In 2001, Dr. Blaisdell emigrated to the climatological and cultural paradise of sunny LA where he has remained ever since. Dr. Blaisdell is a Professor in Learning & Behavior and Behavioral Neuroscience in the UCLA Psychology Department. He presides over the Comparative Cognition Lab, studying cognitive processes in rats, pigeons, hermit crabs, and humans.

A second interest of Dr. Blaisdell’s is in how human ancestry and evolution can inform us about health and well being in the modern world. He is currently studying the interaction between diet and cognition. He is a founding member and Past President of the Ancestral Health Society, Past President of the International Society for Comparative Psychology, an Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Evolution and Health, and a member of the Brain Research Institute, the Integrative Center for Learning & Memory, and the Evolutionary Medicine program all at UCLA.