An engaging self-help book that offers a clear road map for extending one’s life span.



Clean living improves the odds for a long life, according to this fascinating primer on the medical realities of aging.

Cortvriendt, a physician, focuses on the nutritional and lifestyle factors that affect our susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Front and center is his detailed, wonderfully lucid discussion of food, which takes readers from the basic chemistries of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and their metabolism in the body through the subtle and often strange complexities of dieting. (Excess carbohydrates are bad, but an Atkins-style ban will do much more harm than good, he writes.) He provides a skeptical take on vitamin and antioxidant supplements; vitamins A and E, he writes, have been found to actually increase cancer risks at high doses. He balances this with the seemingly miraculous assertion that eating dark chocolate protects against cancer, diabetes and other ailments; tobacco is anathema, alcohol tolerable and coffee a downright boon, he says. However, Cortvriendt advises that what we do is as important as what we ingest and that there’s no end to the benefits of exercise, which wards off hypertension, dementia and other ills. Basking in sunlight may perk you up, the author says, but it can also give you cancer or make you look old. The book also advises that seething Type A personalities should learn to relax and meditate. There are facts, figures and charts galore, but the author presents the information in simple, straightforward prose that laypeople will understand, while paying due attention to complexities; for example, he explains the pitfalls of deriving reliable conclusions from a muddle of medical statistics and offers shrewd, evenhanded assessments of the conflicting evidence surrounding medical controversies. The result is an absorbing, highly readable exposition of the science of health that yields a wealth of common-sense advice.

An engaging self-help book that offers a clear road map for extending one’s life span.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4928-7008-1

Page Count: 380

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

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Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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