Those beautiful old Chinese men

Recently I was having lunch with a couple of acquaintances. One of them, a geneticist, was describing his research into genetic models of complex diseases. He suggested that one day we may be able to accurately predict complex phenotypes from genetic profiles, which could provide immense health care value.

I was quite intrigued. I attempted to show understanding by mentioning ‘Punnett Squares’ as much as possible. First I had to remember what they actually were though. More importantly, it got me pondering about how complex and how simple some of the solutions to our health problems seem to be.

While I admire the progress of science and technology to develop solutions to humanity’s problems, and laude those involved in the endeavor, I can’t help but think we over analyse things at times. We seem to be obsessed with solutions proven by men in white coats.

Meditation, mindfulness, fun, eating real food, companionship and love all seem to be obvious tenets of a healthy lifestyle. These all make us feel so good. Yet, there are academic institutions which insist on validating the prowess of these conspicuous gems in clinical trials.

They hook yogi’s and fat people into lots of machines that make beeping sounds. They feed some people tubs of ice cream and others spinach. They say YOU run and YOU eat this bit of dirt. And then lo and behold, it turns out that those who suck in fumes of smoke are for some reason coughing terribly often.

Surely we don’t need science to tell us that eating carrots, jogging around a little and then laughing over a pint on Friday, activities upon which civilisation were built, are good things to do? It seems time and time again, the results of what constitute a healthy lifestyle are practices that are right under our noses.

We could throw billions more into research to find answers. Or, we could just ask the Chinese guy down the road who does tai chi at six in the morning, eats bok choy with his lunch, goes for a brisk evening walk and is somehow a hundred years old. He’s the one that’s figured it out.


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