Solid advice for healthy eating, but lacks Pollan’s arrestingly original journalistic flair.

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IN DEFENSE OF FOOD

AN EATER’S MANIFESTO

An anemic follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma examines food in a nutritional rather than an environmental context.

As Pollan (Science and Environmental Journalism/Univ. of California, Berkeley) acknowledges on the first page, his thesis is simple. “Eat food,” he writes. “Not too much. Mostly plants.” Of course it’s not as easy as all that. Like many modern nutritionists, Pollan is critical of what he calls the Western diet, which has been responsible for widespread obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. To blame for this, Pollan argues, is the fact that in the last century in particular, Western societies have replaced natural, whole foods with processed food products increasingly loaded with sugars, fats and sodium. We have rationalized these decisions not only by blaming cultural changes, efficiency and convenience, but also by pitting the damages against one another in a health war. Blaming fats, for example, takes the pressure off of carbohydrates, and vice versa. But hope is not lost, says the author. With a newfound emphasis on locally grown agriculture and organic farming, Pollan claims that it is more possible than ever to avoid the problems of the Western diet without sacrificing quality of life. The author backs his theories with a variety of research, including a particularly compelling study from 1982 that sent Westernized Aborigines in Western Australia back to their natural diet in the outback, and found a drastic reduction in every typically Western health problem. While his research is sound and well-organized, the academic, secondary source–reliant text lacks the punch of the author’s usual hands-on approach.

Solid advice for healthy eating, but lacks Pollan’s arrestingly original journalistic flair.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-145-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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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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Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

HEALING OUR VILLAGE

A SELF-CARE GUIDE TO DIABETES CONTROL

Self-help guide for diabetes sufferers, mostly in question-and-answer format, with an emphasis on helping racial and ethnic minority diabetics.

Coleman is a pharmacist with a doctorate in her specialty, Gavin a Ph.D. and M.D. Aside from acknowledgments and a foreword signed by Gavin alone, their voices and expertise are indistinguishable, offering lucid, simple solutions for diabetes patients. Gavin relates watching his great-grandmother endure debilitating pain as a result of diabetes while he visited her as a youngster. He remembers hearing adults mention that sugar killed her, and he wondered how something that tasted sweet could cause so much harm. As an adult, he realized that his great-grandmother's affliction could be controlled through treatment. The authors focus on Type 2 diabetes, the most common form in minority populations. An estimated 18.2 million Americans are diabetic, with perhaps 5 million unaware of their situation. About 11 percent of U.S. diabetics are African-American, and about 8 percent are Latino. The question-and-answer format begins with an overview section about diabetes, with an emphasis on risk factors. Section Two covers management of the disease, including nutrition, exercise, blood-testing, oral medications and insulin use. In addition, the authors continually recommend smoking cessation, as well as instructing patients on the readiness of self-treatment. Section Three explains the complications—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease—that could arise if the condition remains untreated or treated ineffectively. The questions in all of the sections are worded simply, and the answers are usually free of medical jargon. Though the sudden shifts in tone and voice are occasionally jarring, the writing remains clear enough to distill the facts. The real downside here, though: patronizing, laughable illustrations that degrade the overall product.

Authoritative and, most helpfully, accessible.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2004

ISBN: 0-9746948-0-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2010

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