A helpful guide offering encouragement to those looking for ways to lead healthier lives.

THE HUNGRY BRAIN

OUTSMARTING THE INSTINCTS THAT MAKE US OVEREAT

Obesity researcher and health writer Guyenet seeks an answer to why, “between 1980 and the present, the U.S. obesity rate more than doubled” despite our national obsession with dieting.

It is certainly not for lack of information, since there are thousands of self-help books on the subject of the relationship between diet and health and longevity. After exploring and rejecting a number of the proposed solutions, the author, who has a doctorate in neurobiology, concludes that it is not necessarily fats or refined sugar in our diets that are the culprits. Following in the footsteps of Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), Guyenet looks to the structure of the human brain and how it has evolved over time. “The brain’s thought processes can be roughly divided into two systems,” he writes. “System 1 is fast, effortless, intuitive, and unconscious, while system 2 is slow, effortful, rational, and conscious.” The first is impulsive and ruled by the brain’s reward system, so our conscious attempts to follow a strict diet are undermined by anticipations of tastiness “selected over millions of years” when food was scarce and difficult to procure. Putting food on the table can be hard work. In a world in which calorie-rich convenience foods are readily available, this presents more temptation. The gratification that these foods provide overrides feelings of satiation and encourages us to overeat. Guyenet explores the latest research on how insulin regulates fat storage, as well as the role of the neurotransmitter leptin, which controls appetite. He also finds a direct relationship between sleep loss and eating behavior; we often compensate by eating higher-calorie foods. Not getting enough regular, restorative sleep “increases the reward system’s responsiveness to food cues.” What we eat is largely a matter of individual choice, but the author supports regulating advertisements for unhealthy foods that target children.

A helpful guide offering encouragement to those looking for ways to lead healthier lives.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08119-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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