Why worry about bioterrorism? We’re poisoning ourselves with calories, says freelance journalist and former fatty Crister.
You are probably overweight; more than 60% of American adults are. Fat is pandemic. We are grazing, snacking, eating mountains of fat. Worse, we are stuffing our kids like Strasbourg geese. The problem goes back at least a generation, to the importation of palm oil (a.k.a. “tree lard”) and the use of high-fructose sweeteners under the aegis of Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz. Tasty, long-lasting junk food could be formulated with these cheap ingredients, never mind the dangerous health effects. Pepsi and Pizza Hut took over school lunchrooms. At home or in restaurants, portion sizes burgeoned. Sprawled before our TVs we watched Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda. We believed Dr. Atkins. Kids waddled through fading Phys. Ed. programs. Now, family, school, culture, ethnicity, and income all influence excess caloric intake. Gluttony doesn’t seem so sinful today. But fat is bad, Crister says. Increased risk factors include coronary heart disease, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, gall bladder disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and endometrial cancer, each with a bad prognosis. Food science, metabolic mechanics, and medical details are all set forth, though readers who find this book contains more than they want to absorb could profitably settle for the Harper’s cover story that spawned it. The text, though, is generally lean and lucid, with wry commentary on the social aspects of Phat America. J. Lo’s behind isn’t so big, the author concludes, and anorexia isn’t very widespread. Preventing our children from looking like mini sumo wrestlers is a timely idea, and this text is a worthy contribution. (It was apparently written before McDonald’s announced reduced use of transfats, surely too late with too little.) Crister discusses the politics of this growing public health problem and has some suggestions to fix it. In sum, it takes behavior modification and willpower.
Savvy and scary.