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Hungry Gene Hardcover – Oct 1 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: GROVE/ATLANTIC; 1 edition (Oct. 1 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871138565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871138569
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,467,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

More than 1.1 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese. How and why did the world get so fat? Shell, a journalist and codirector of the Program in Science Journalism at Boston University, explores the issue from many angles including the roles of genetics, pharmaceutical companies, the food industry and social class. She charts the growth in scientific research on obesity and obesity treatments in the last decade (from stomach stapling to the notoriously dangerous drug Fen-Phen), explaining the biology of metabolism that makes it so difficult to circumvent the body's appetite. Shell also explores the lifestyle culprits behind obesity, traveling to Micronesia to document the residents of the island of Kosrae, whose average life span has plummeted in recent years due to the introduction of high-fat Western food. Though she lucidly explains the physiology of fat, Shell fills the book with chatty profiles of patients and doctors ("Rudy Leibel is a small man and trim... He has a degree in English literature, and a weakness for poetry") and her prose reads like that of a glossy magazine. There is also much in the book that may be familiar to readers; the spotlights on new obesity treatments are compelling, but it will come as no surprise that too much high-fat, calorie-dense food and too little exercise trigger obesity. On the other hand, given that Big-Tobacco-style class-action lawsuits against fast food companies are under consideration, some may find Shell's arguments for the regulation of junk-food TV advertising, among other measures, timely and provocative.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is not quick-fix diet book. It's a science journalist's study of why we are fatter than ever (60 percent of Americans should be skipping dessert today) and what is being done about it.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
While one can be grateful and admire the authors' acknowledgement of the marketing of obesity-just how much the obsessive desire of normal weight people to be stick thin body builders viciously escalated today's obesity epidemic is, of course as with all these eat less move more, political books never really examined. To her credit she is more sympathetic than scolding, and acknowledges homo sapiens' stunning ability to survive famine through "famine" metabolism control, (I wish I could regulate my heater so effectively in the winter!) and superior carb storing ability as fat. (If only I could get this kind of return on my bank acct. for such minimal but constant deposits!) The hope based on ignorance of this physiological truth is what the diet industries profits from with it's-hello-eat less! starvation sports drinks and reducing teas. This is the real evil cuplrit here-NOT Fast food! Who was believing that fast food supersized meals were beneficial to your health anyhow? No one, at least in that industry, was preying on false hope and America's moral obsession with thinness and fitness. In that sense "health bars" such as Jamba Juice, where one gulped down thousands of calories of fructose and fat free soy while the other hand slammed one's face with fat free carbs hoping to regain one's compromised modern health is the real problem. The junk food eaters woud've always been part of America's once stable fat percentage, but over looked is what compounded and created the Obesity epidemic one hears about ad nauseum: those miserable, self-loathing healthy eaters adhering tragically to the eat low fat replaced with earth sustaining carbs-move into the gymn self-flagelaters who found themselves more and more exhausted, deprived and self-blaming only to wake up fatter somehow.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Keeping the food theme alive, I'll start by way of analogy...
Have you ever dined at a fine restaurant, had a well planned, beautifully executed and thought provoking meal, only to have the entire experience scuttled by a ho-hum dessert and a burnt cup of coffee? Such was my encounter with The Hungry Gene.
Author Ellen Shell, a consistent contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, is among the top science writers in the United States today and she adroitly demonstrates her literary and research skills in every piece she creates. This book is no exception as she sets the stage with great finesse and takes us through a brief monograph of the philosophy and treatment of obesity from ancient history to the mid twentieth century. She then moves to the early theories of genetics and obesity and on to the core of her book, the absolutely riveting story (full of juicy back-stabbing details and deal making) of Dr. Jeffrey Friedman and his research team's obsessive search for the magic genetic bullet to cure obesity, and the resulting avarice of the pharmaceutical industry in trying to procure and apply the research.
Shell then elaborates on the genetic ties to obesity through a chapter dedicated to the Kosrae people (an indigenous Micronesian population brought to obesity by the Westernization of their foodways) and a chapter concerning pediatric and adolescent obesity illustrated through the study of children conceived and born during the Nazi siege of Holland of 1944-45 and additional prenatal research performed by Dr. David Barker, a Southampton, UK based epidemiologist. These studies are sited in support of the strong correlation between a pregnant mother's food intake and a child's pre-disposition towards obesity.
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone who enjoyed Fast Food Nation is going to love this book, because it makes clear why what we're eating and how we're living, has created the biggest public health problem since smoking. I really don't know where to begin getting into it, because this slim volume is so complete, covering everything from what starvation studies told us about why we eat, to the genetics of appetite, to social influences on eating behavior, to prenatal programming of obesity. It gets deep into the politics of the food industry, and into food marketing to children. It explains how changes in the diet made industry rich, and a growing number of people around the world fat and diabetic. It nails the smoking gun of the obesity epidemic, which is the impact of an obesegenic environment on suseptible genes--genes that most of us have, by the way. It doesn't eliminate personal responsibility as a factor in obesity, but it does show why some of us are more likely than others to over eat and why and what can be done about it. I read Hungry Gene in one sitting, on a cross country flight from New York to LA, because it was so well written, and so darn interesting. I mean, there is a whole chapter on Kosrae, Micronesia where an entire population got fat in just one generation, and that is written almost like a travel piece, with great verve and with tons of information. There's another very graphic and chilling chapter on stomach surgery, which incorporates a whole history of obesity treatments. There's another chapter on this scientist in the UK who is showing that obesity can be programmed in the womb. There's even a chapter on food marketing, where the author crashes a conference for food marketers and exposes how they con our kids into craving all their junk. It's entertaining, incredibly informative, and terribly important stuff. So buy it, read it, and then see if you can watch just one more fast food ad on tv without throwing the remote at the set.
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