The Ancestral Health Society is a community of scientists, healthcare professionals, and laypersons who collaborate to understand health challenges from an evolutionary perspective.
The Society promotes collaboration through two initiatives:
The Ancestral Health Symposium. AHS is held annually in August and is the premier event of the ancestral health movement. If you are interested in understanding human health, wellness, and disease from an evolutionary perspective, please join us!
The Journal of Evolution and Health. JEH is a peer-reviewed open-access journal serving academic researchers and clinical practitioners. The Journal seeks to cultivate interdisciplinary collaboration to develop and test evolutionary approaches to health.
In both the Symposium and the Journal, the Society is motivated by a belief that evolution has much to teach us about healthful living and effective healing.
A board of dedicated volunteers oversees and operates the Society’s business and activities. The volunteer board changes over time as new people step up to lead the Society.
The Ancestral Health Society is organized by Ancestry, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit organization incorporated in California.
Anyone can request copies of Ancestry’s financials by e-mailing Brent Pottenger at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re committed to ensuring that Ancestry’s resources are used effectively and appropriately to benefit the public through education in accord with our nonprofit mission.
Financial support goes directly to journal start-up costs, symposium organizing costs, website creation and maintenance, and symposium video production. Together, these activities provide tremendous public benefit through education about Ancestral Health. More information can be found here.
What is Ancestral Health?
Good question. We don’t know exactly because each human being is unique. But we seek to learn how our evolutionary heritage – both our common heritage and unique, individual heritages – should shape our modern lifestyles. We respect the reality of human differences within a shared human heritage, and approach issues of individuality and common heritage with open minds and curiosity. We are eager to learn the limitations as well as the potential of an ancestral approach.
When we respect how we reached modern day, we position ourselves humbly to be thankful for the lessons learned by those who came before us. So, whether you are considering how to eat or drink, how to move about your local ecological niche, or how to educate your children, we feel that living an Ancestral Lifestyle means respecting our ancestors and thinking critically about how modern environmental signals and stressors shape our lives in positive and negative ways.
We are striving to create a community of learners and teachers who, sharing knowledge gained from personal experience, clinical practice, and scholarly research, collaborate to create new insights that can improve health and increase human happiness. Toward this end, the virtues of charity, openness, and scholarly rigor are central to the Society’s practice. Let us therefore seek knowledge with wisdom and grace. As we self-experiment with Ancestral Lifestyle choices together, we can create a community of people who can share lessons learned from experience. We can learn by grace or by hard knocks; let’s choose gracefully.
The Ancestral Health Society is organized for the purpose of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and translational efforts between scientists, healthcare professionals, and laypersons that study and communicate about the human ecological niche and modern health from an evolutionary perspective to develop solutions to our current health challenges.
We need health reform, ultimately, in order for any efforts at healthcare reform to succeed sustainably. Modern humans suffer from numerous diseases linked to the metabolic syndrome, such as diabetes, yet these health maladies were virtually nonexistent during most of our ancestry. In modern science, evolution is the default perspective for inquiry. In modern healthcare, however, evolution is almost nowhere to be seen. Neolithic and (especially) post-industrial diets combined with modern sedentary lifestyles have pushed our physiologies dangerously far from their adapted environments, and it is becoming exceedingly expensive and ineffective for medical practitioners to fix the resulting damage done to our bodies or halt the epidemic flood of illnesses collectively referred to as the diseases of civilization. In fact, the current generation of children may live shorter lifespans than do their parents—a startling reality that should shock health experts into creative, collaborative solution-searching.
Recently, research scientists, physicians, health experts/professionals, and e-patients have organized online around a new direction in physiology that respects our evolutionary heritage as human beings. This Ancestral Health community emerged in the Blogosphere as the aforementioned panelists engaged in scientific journalism and spread their ideas, insights, and discoveries with the world openly and freely. Starting out on the periphery, this self-organizing, decentralized community has recently gained momentum through bottom-up thinkering; thus, the time is ripe to capture this energy and cultivate further interdisciplinary inquiry through an event that unites all those interested in advancing the science and practice of human health in the twenty-first century.
With the far-reach that these presenters have on the Web—bloggers like Mark Sisson run some of the top health Web sites in the world, with thousands of readers daily—as well as in academia and in local healthcare communities, the proceedings at this event will touch a widespread audience and will foster new, unique approaches to solving our existing healthcare challenges.
Finally, this is an opportunity to support dialogue and conversation between people who are passionately concerned about restoring, maintaining, and enhancing people’s health. When we understand how our diet and lifestyle choices cause our health states to degrade, we can better implement cost-effective ways to improve health. Not only is an ounce of the right prevention worth a pound of cure, the right ounce of prevention costs a lot less. From this perspective, the health policy and administrative potential of Ancestral Health are both valuable and practical. In light of the resource constraints that our healthcare systems face, implementing concepts and ideas presented at this symposium would be beneficial.
In December of 2009, Brent Pottenger, Aaron Blaisdell, and Chris Owens attended a “New Directions in Physiology” symposium at UCLA. Standing in the lobby outside of the event, they agreed, “We should organize our own symposium and bring together bloggers, scientists, physicians, and others to present about respecting our unique ancestral heritages as human beings.” Or something to that effect. Please read about it on here and here.
When the idea for the Ancestral Health Symposium sprouted, Brent Pottenger teamed with his business partner, Brian Geremia, to form Ancestry, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit organization. Ancestry encapsulated the Ancestral Health Symposium, the Ancestral Health Society, and Game Plan Academy, another venture in health and education in Sacramento, CA.
Brent and Brian enlisted their friends, Nate Rosenberg, Megan Geremia, Michal Naisteter, Joe Sobolewski, Jake Jacobson, Jesse Maddex, and Gio Carmazzi to serve as Board Members for Ancestry, which supports ancestral health in areas ranging from education to medicine to food law and policy. Donations to Ancestry support its mission to respect the wisdom embedded in our unique heritages as human beings.
The first Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS11) occurred at UCLA in August, 2011. AHS12 took place at Harvard Law School in association with the Harvard Food Law Society under the leadership of Nate Rosenberg, Michal Naisteter, and a group of volunteers. Katherine Morrison chaired AHS13, which took place in Atlanta.