A strong, rigorous overview of the calorie, its regulation and the politics behind food labeling and marketing.

WHY CALORIES COUNT

FROM SCIENCE TO POLITICS

Nestle (Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health/New York Univ.; Pet Food Politics, 2008, etc.) and Nesheim (Nutritional Sciences, Emeritus/Cornell Univ.; co-author, with Nestle: Feed Your Pet Right, 2010, etc.) explore “calories in all their dimensions—personal, scientific, and political.”

Calories are abstract—“they cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, and their biological functions are difficult for most people to grasp.” In the early chapters, the authors discuss the discovery of calories and their measurement, but these sections feel like a slog through the basement of an old natural-history museum. The remaining chapters read better, especially when the authors step away from their data-rich analysis and voice their concerns. Nestle and Nesheim devote several chapters to the physiological and political implications of inadequate calories, then introduce obesity and factors that conspire to prevent us from losing or maintaining weight. The human body does a great job of ensuring that it gets enough calories “but it is much less effective at knowing when calories are in excess.” The messages we receive about food often overpower our biophysical mechanisms to limit eating. In the final section, the authors examine the politics of calories. They argue that inadvertent responses to greater food production and competition in the food industry strongly promote the overconsumption of calories, including changes that “encourage eating in more places at more times of day in larger portions.” They also argue that the cause of today’s obesity trend is not less physical activity, as exercise rates have stayed the same since 1980.

A strong, rigorous overview of the calorie, its regulation and the politics behind food labeling and marketing.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-520-26288-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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