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The World is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products That Are Fatteningthe Human Race Hardcover – December 26, 2008

3.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Popkin, a renowned obesity and nutrition expert, investigates what the World Health Organization has defined as a global obesity epidemic, identifying familiar culprits (nutrient-poor, sugar-rich foods; larger serving sizes and less exercise)—but introduces fresh research to demonstrate how our drinking habits have contributed to the problem. The author follows the expanding waistlines of four families in the United States, Mexico and India to argue that obesity is less a result of gluttony and sloth than a confluence of factors rooted in a fundamental conflict between human biology and modern society, where more calories are consumed than expended, and governments and multinational corporations shape everyday lives (a detailed section traces the growth of modern food and beverage conglomerates). Unfortunately, the book remains a disjointed portrayal of this thesis: Popkin never fully explores the impact of energy drinks and sodas and interrupts his observations of the four families to wax nostalgic (and unscientific) on his youthful dietary and exercise habits in rural Wisconsin. The salience and urgency of the obesity epidemic is incontrovertible, however, and Popkins is a readable and ambitious introduction. (Jan.)
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“The global obesity epidemic affects all of us - families, communities, and nations around the world. It's a weighty subject in every way, with dire consequences for well being, life expectancy, and economic productivity in the years ahead unless seriously confronted. The World is Fat is compelling reading on this complex and growing societal threat. Dr. Barry Popkin is one of the world's most distinguished experts on obesity, the global food system, and nutrition, with extensive first-hand knowledge of the trends in the U.S., Europe, India, China, and beyond. His writing is remarkably clear and concise, free of jargon, and full of wisdom, balance, and good judgment. His call to action and practical suggestions to individuals, communities, and political leaders, will be read with enormous interest and benefit around the world.”
— Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, author of The End of Poverty and Common Wealth

“This personal, warmly sympathetic account of the makings of the global obesity crisis is just what is needed to figure out what to do about it. Popkin is an economist, but a humanistic one, and his humanity shines through in this book.”
—Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat and Food Politics, and professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University

“The most serious epidemic ever is insidiously engulfing the world. Barry Popkin draws upon his decades of research and experience to describe its origins—and a set of potential solutions. Those interested in the future of mankind should read this book.”
—Walter Willett, author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, and chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard University

“Popkin’s research contributions and insights into food and nutrition have inspired scores of scholars. In The World is Fat, he now inspires parents and consumers about what we can do to help our families and ourselves.”
—Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Avery (December 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583333134
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583333136
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #953,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Nutrition, at UNC-CH. He has a PhD in economics and established the Division of Nutrition Epidemiology at UNC. Prior to his academic work he was a 1960's full time civil rights and community organizer for several years. Subsequently he returned, obtained his PhD and has lived in India, the Philippines and for shorter periods in Thailand, China, Brazil, Mexico and other lower income countries and worked on diet, activity and body composition an obesity issues in both the US, Europe and the low and middle income world. He has developed the concept of the Nutrition Transition, the study of the dynamic shifts in dietary intake and physical activity patterns and trends and obesity and other nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases and his research program focuses globally on understanding the shifts in stages of the transition and programs and policies to improve the population health linked with this transition(see www.nutrans.org). This includes an array of US long-term research projects. His international research is equally large-scale. Popkin directs longitudinal surveys in China and Russia and is also involved in survey research in other countries, including Brazil, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, India, Norway and the Philippines. He is actively involved at the national and global level in policy formulation for many countries, particularly Mexico and China. He has published 370 refereed journal articles, is one of the most cited nutrition scholars in the world.

You can learn more about Barry Popkin and his research program and activities by going to: www.nutrans.org

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The name Barry Popkin carries some real clout in the nutrition/obesity research world, so I was excited to read his opinions and thoughts, and I cruised through this book in one night. The author starts out with the story of his life growing up in the 50's and the lives of a few other families in India and China, and he returns to them throughout the book. Although I don't feel that the individual stories make a convincing argument for why the world is fat, they do make the book immensely enjoyable and extremely easy to relate to.

What does make a convincing argument is the well-researched data that peppers this book, pointing the finger firmly at a one-two-three punch of the sudden drop in activity in our lives, the over-abundance of nutritionally void foods and the governmental/corporate intervention into our eating habits. While not a new theory, it is a new take that is a pleasure to read.

Where this book falls short is that the author doesn't really take the story to a conclusion. He touches on why we are fat but never really reaches an answer, touches on what obesity does to us but never really drives the point home, and touches on what we can do about it without ever really laying down any firm resolution. I would have liked to see less conjecture about liquid calories and more facts about the changes in our world. I found myself leaving the book with more questions than I started with.

The book clocks in at a light 170 pages of meat in a large font, and as such, it makes a great introduction, but not a great answer, to a very serious question.
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Format: Hardcover
"The World is Fat" is yet another book about the obesity epidemic and the need for weight control and increased activity in our culture. What makes this book different is that the entire world is included. Before reading this book, I didn't know that so many other countries are in the same boat as the U.S., whether they are a "developed" country such as Australia, or an emerging nation, such as Chile or Mexico. What an amazing change in just a handful of years! According to the statistics in this book, over 51% of Chileans are overweight or obese. I lived in Chile for a short time during the mid-90's and I RARELY saw overweight people. In fact, the Chileans would ask me why so many Americans were fat because it was rare in their culture to see heavy people. Also interesting were the author's comparisons of life in the 50's to present-day in terms of food intake and activity level. This book shines in all of the cold, hard facts it gives you, both in terms of calories then and now, and in terms of historical comparisons from the 50s, 60s, 80s and now.

I do not believe, though, that this book is 100% correct in its opinions or its research. To give a small example, the author mentions that in Europe (specifically France, Spain, and Italy) it's not uncommon to see small children drink wine with meals and says that in his opinion this "clearly" is why their youth have less problems with alcohol than our nation. I have heard many people throw this around as if it's both truth and common knowledge "yeah, in France they let little kids drink!" Having lived in both France and Spain, I would ask people if they let their children drink wine. I expected to hear "yes," but the answer was an overwhelming no! They do have a drinking age over there (16).
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Format: Hardcover
I hate to write a review for a book I didn't finish, but I felt I just had to for this one. This book is okay, but there were two things about it that rather drove me to distraction.

For one, I really didn't see much in here that I haven't seen somewhere else. High-fructose corn syrup in sodas? Check. Americans don't get enough exercise? Check. Weight is a simple matter of calories in minus calories expended? Check. Larger serving sizes? Check. The rest of the world following bad American habits? Check.

The other was Popkin's writing style. It was a little hard to put my finger on it, but it seemed rather choppy. Sentences tended to be very punchy and short, with poor transitions from one to another. Paragraphs sometimes covered several, not-especially-related topics.

I really wanted to finish this one, but between these two problems, I just felt I had to get up from the table and move onto something a little more nourishing.
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Format: Hardcover
As a Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Barry Popkin has made the study of nutrition and obesity his life work. In the World is Fat, he explains how changes in diet and lifestyle have resulted in an alarming increase in obesity during recent decades. The fact that Americans are heavier is no secret, but Popkin shows that this phenomenon is global: he cites examples from Mexico, China, and India. Unfortunately the consequences of obesity are not, and Popkin runs through the laundry list of health problems and economic ramifications an overweight population brings.

Chapters are devoted to causes of weight gain, including the usual suspects such as reduced movement, sugary drinks, and convenience food. Although Popkin pulls no punches when criticism is warranted, he also makes an valiant effort to be fair by pointing out positive changes that some companies in the food industry have made. (In the case of McDonald's, their efforts to reduce portion size were met by an increase in portion size by competitor Burger King; eager to cash in on the big eating McDonald's tried to discourage.)

The last chapter of The World is Fat is a breath of fresh air after the many books that point out problems but fail to offer concrete solutions. In it the author makes suggestions for changes on the individual, nationwide and international levels to help reverse the alarming trend of obesity. The individual changes are not surprising (reduce caloric intake, take the stairs instead of the elevator), but the large scale ideas just might work if they are implemented.
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