I don’t normally post full book reviews here anymore. I used to post them in that tab you see above, aptly called “Book Reviews.” I’m bucking the trend today, however because I really want you to read this book. If nothing else, I really want you to read my review of this book.
I know, it’s kind of long.
I know, there aren’t any funny pictures in it. (Oh, okay. Here’s one.)
I really want you to read it though. So….please? Read it?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ll try to keep this short. READ THIS BOOK.
It isn’t an easy book to read. Not in content nor in how it makes you feel. But it is a truly important book. The obesity epidemic (pandemic, whatever – call it what you will, it is a Problem-with-a-capital-P, alright?) is real, it’s bad, its getting worse, and it shows no signs of stopping or slowing. What used to be mainly a US problem has spread worldwide, keeping pace with the spread of the American way of eating (i.e. processed food, fast food, and SUGAR.)
There are 5 parts to the book. The first is about the history of the problem, likely to convince you that there is in fact, a problem. It also lays the groundwork for what you are about to read – biochemistry of food, personal responsibility in food choices, hormones and behaviors (including food addictions) around food, metabolic diseases, and the various diets that people try to combat all the problems he’s just mentioned.
Always a winner with this biology professor, I love that he uses SCIENCE to prove his points and refute what others are trying to wrongly espouse. It isn’t easy to read, as I said, but the gist is that sugar, and fructose in particular, is the real culprit. The best evidence that is nearly irrefutable and easy to understand is that the most successful diets (each of which he covers in detail in one of the chapters) all share a few tenets. Namely, eat less sugar and more fiber. (To a lesser degree, he also argues that exercise is important, but makes the important distinction that exercise is important in improving HEALTH, but nutrition is important in improving WEIGHT management.)
He also gives a table of what he calls “green, yellow, and red light” foods. As you would expect, the green light foods are all low in sugar, high in fiber and minimally or not at all processed; the converse beng true for the red light foods. Nothing shocking there, but it is nice to have a handy table that you can bring to the store. (I’m still looking online to find one. If you know where I can get one, please let me know!)
I would have given this 5 stars if not for two things. First, there is considerable redundancy among chapters. I assume this is because it is a fairly dense non-fiction book that covers a lot of wide-ranging topics, from biochemistry to food politics to societal ethos, and Lustig rightfully assumes that people won’t necessarily read it cover to cover. Even if they do, they aren’t likely to retain everything.
Second, there is a glaring contradiction in 2 major parts. In Part 5 (The personal solution), he gives us real and practical and doable ways to change our “food environment” and therefore, our hormones and our health overall. However, the very next section, The Public Health Solution, he argues that personal responsibility (i.e. change) isn’t possible and we therefore need government intervention in the form of taxes and bans and the like. I get that he was trying to give a prescriptive change option, with a caveat that no matter the good intentions, that personal change won’t be enough – we’re in too deep – and won’t work at all for many people. But the problem was in the way it was written. Both chapters seem like opposite sides of the same coin, the way they were written. I think a softening of both stances and a merging of the two options is the real way that the obesity pandemic needs to be approached.
He does end on a positive note, which is more than I had expected, given the slightly negative tone of the last part. That’s to be expected though; writing about policy tends to bring out that negative vibe in many people.
(So much for keeping it short, huh?)
OK, fine. Here’s another funny picture, for those of you that made it to the end. (Thanks!)
What do you think about the obesity “epidemic”? Have you read this book or seen Dr. Lustig’s sugar lecture? What are your thoughts on this topic?
Feel free to get all soap-boxy and ranty in the comments. I expect it. I encourage it. Swears are welcome, too. Bring it on!!