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.