Readers looking to understand all the factors in weight-loss management will find this a good supplement to material...


Maimonides & Metabolism

From the Maimonides and Metabolism series

A reconsideration of the physiology of weight loss, supported by the writings of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides.

In recent years, discussions about losing weight have been dominated by the protein-carbohydrate duo. Although debut author Herschlag hews closely to the conventional wisdom by recommending a diet low in carbs, he expands the terms of the debate significantly. First, he provides an account of how simple caloric restriction can counterproductively increase one’s weight. Sustainable weight loss, he says, requires creating a healthy balance among four different hormones: insulin, cortisol, leptin, and ghrelin. Although the effects of insulin on weight management have been widely covered before, the other three hormonal secretions have been comparatively neglected in other books. Here, for example, the author writes that eating too few calories can increase the release of ghrelin, which thereby increases not only hunger but also the production of fat cells. Likewise, he notes, the simultaneous release of insulin and cortisol, which responds to low blood sugar levels by stimulating a release of blood sugar from the liver, also generates new fat cells. The goal of any good diet, according to Herschlag, should be maximizing the process of apoptosis, or the burning of fat cells, while minimizing the production of new fat cells. This leads to some unconventional counsel; for example, since cortisol levels are at their peak directly after we wake, the author recommends postponing breakfast for three hours. Here and there, Herschlag observes points of agreement between his scientific findings and the ancient writings of the Jewish sage Maimonides, but these asides will likely be little more than a matter of curiosity for readers who are merely interested in losing weight. Although much of the practical advice ends up treading familiar ground, this is a considerably deeper and more rigorous treatment of the subject than normally offered. Its appraisal of some of the more popular diet fads is also helpful. However, readers should take note of the author’s disclaimer that despite his training at the prestigious Wingate Institute, he’s not an “expert or authority” and doesn’t feel obligated to present all the sides in each debate he addresses.

Readers looking to understand all the factors in weight-loss management will find this a good supplement to material produced by experts. 

Pub Date: June 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5089-6863-4

Page Count: 214

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2015

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


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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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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