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BRAINFOOD by Jean-Marie Bourre


A Provocative Exploration of the Connection Between What You Eat and How You Think

by Jean-Marie Bourre

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1993
ISBN: 0-316-09281-9
Publisher: Little, Brown

Not, as the title might suggest, a prescription in the American self-help mode for foods or nutrients that can or might or are claimed to make your brain work better or longer. Instead, Bourre (a French medical researcher and author of popular French books on neurology and nutrition) has put together an odd mix of information, exhortation, and opinion about the impact of diet on the brain. Bourre includes: straightforward technical description of the apparatus of taste and, at great length, of the brain's architecture, elements, and workings; basic and peripheral material on the essential nutrients; offhand observations on topics as tangential as the possibility of grafting human neurons on other species; questionable pronouncements (``Obviously meat is the best type of food to build muscle in humans, brains to develop the brain, and kidneys for the kidney''); and gushy prattle (``You cannot fully appreciate good food and good wine unless you're properly seated in a dining room, surrounded by beautiful paintings, magnificent lithographs or engravings''; ``The fragrance of a great meal, like a great perfume, is a work of art, comparable to a Gainsborough landscape, a Rodin sculpture, a Beethoven sonata, an Aubusson tapestry...''). The author begins by announcing his commitment to cuisine, gastronomy, and ``dining pleasure''; castigating vegetarians, ``killjoys,'' and ``fanatical dieticians of...less cholesterol, less fat, less sugar''; and associating presumed negative characteristics of other nationalities with their variously un-French, and thus inelegant, diets. The bulk of the book, however, not only fails to support these prejudices but actually recommends less saturated fat, less fat, and less sugar. Bourre has much to say and to suggest about the brain and its use of nutrients, but too often you won't know what to do with the information—or even what to make of it—because the context or connections or conclusions or applications just aren't there.