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The Hungry Gene: The Inside Story of the Obesity Industry Paperback – September 15, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
Have you ever dined at a fine restaurant, had a well planned, beautifully executed and thought provoking meal, only to have the entire experience scuttled by a ho-hum dessert and a burnt cup of coffee? Such was my encounter with The Hungry Gene.
Author Ellen Shell, a consistent contributor to the Atlantic Monthly, is among the top science writers in the United States today and she adroitly demonstrates her literary and research skills in every piece she creates. This book is no exception as she sets the stage with great finesse and takes us through a brief monograph of the philosophy and treatment of obesity from ancient history to the mid twentieth century. She then moves to the early theories of genetics and obesity and on to the core of her book, the absolutely riveting story (full of juicy back-stabbing details and deal making) of Dr. Jeffrey Friedman and his research team's obsessive search for the magic genetic bullet to cure obesity, and the resulting avarice of the pharmaceutical industry in trying to procure and apply the research.
Shell then elaborates on the genetic ties to obesity through a chapter dedicated to the Kosrae people (an indigenous Micronesian population brought to obesity by the Westernization of their foodways) and a chapter concerning pediatric and adolescent obesity illustrated through the study of children conceived and born during the Nazi siege of Holland of 1944-45 and additional prenatal research performed by Dr. David Barker, a Southampton, UK based epidemiologist. These studies are sited in support of the strong correlation between a pregnant mother's food intake and a child's pre-disposition towards obesity.Read more ›
Why? Lack of will-power? Lack of exercise? Our genetic constitution? Ignorance? Indoctrination through advertising by the fast and junk food industries? Answer: all of the above except lack of will-power. When it comes to eating, will-power really has nothing to do with it. Food is a "drug" we can't quit cold turkey. Abstinence is impossible. We must eat, and so the temptation to overeat and/or eat the wrong foods will always be with us. Not only that but we are constantly being bombarded with messages from the purveyors of food to eat this, eat that, eat more, more and more. Super-sizing the proles is a massively huge business.
So what to do? Are we looking at a future in which most of us are round mounds of huffing and puffing blubber subject to diabetes and an early death? Shell is hopeful. She believes that if we can somehow regulate the fast food industry in a manner similar to way we are regulating the tobacco industry (see the final chapter), if we educate the public, and turn down the constant din of fast and junk food advertizing, and keep sodas and junk food out of our schools while increasing exercise programs especially for school children, there is hope. However, as Shell illustrates graphically by the story she tells on herself to end Chapter Ten, it is more likely that instead of exercising, we will get into the car, "rev the engine, and steer toward dinner.Read more ›
Not only is the story of obesity research interesting and relevant to all of us, but it is extremely difficult to get the whole picture. Each article and each news story tends to cover what is novel or most fascinating about research, and the solution the author is promoting, and usually ignores the background and the consensus already formed. The Hungry Gene covers all of the central lines of research: the modification of behavior, the influence of genes, the way the body regulates its own weight, the role of food industries and marketing, and makes each set of findings clear. Equally important, the author makes it clear what we still don't know about human weight control.
There simply isn't any non-technical source to find out what is known about obesity, and the technical sources don't tell the story nearly so well, and they tend to be speciallized to a particular field. The Hungry Gene brings it all together coherently.
An important and highly relevant education-in-a-book on a deeply interesting topic. Hard to beat a bargain like that. It's rare to find a book that meets such a pressing need for scientific information in such a skillful way.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good insight into both physiological and societal influences on obesety.Published 8 months ago by Robin A. Scott
I loved this book- in large part because if was extremely well written and covered a diverse number of topics related to obesity research. Science journalist Ellen R. Read morePublished on February 21, 2012 by Dominick J. Lemas
The author somehow manages to remain calm while revealing how certain sorry segments of the science community distort the facts for money. Read morePublished on April 20, 2008 by Michael Grace
From the title and abstract, I'd hoped to find an interesting and readable exposition of the known biochemical mechanisms regulating appetite, from the insulin/glucose cycle to... Read morePublished on May 7, 2005 by Eotvos
While one can be grateful and admire the authors' acknowledgement of the marketing of obesity-just how much the obsessive desire of normal weight people to be stick thin body... Read morePublished on May 1, 2004 by W. Dickinson
If you enjoyed Jungle or Fast Food Nation, and/or are a nutrition/health enthusiast, this book is a must-read. Read morePublished on January 26, 2004 by Anand Rangarajan
Anyone who enjoyed Fast Food Nation is going to love this book, because it makes clear why what we're eating and how we're living, has created the biggest public health problem... Read morePublished on August 4, 2003 by C. Thompson
Author Ellen Ruppel Shell puts the obesity epidemic in proper perspective with remarkable skill and thoroughness. She cites it as the no. 2 public health risk factor in the U.S. Read morePublished on July 28, 2003 by Ann Sherwin