Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Why Calories Count

Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (California Studies in Food and Culture, 33)Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics by Marion Nestle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here's the basic premise of this book: eating too many calories makes us fat; because of the "eat more" environment we can't keep ourselves from eating too many calories, thus we get fat; therefore, the government must step in to save us from ourselves.

If you don't mind big government or a nanny state, then this approach may work for you. I'm personally not a fan of it.

Reader beware. If you enjoy beautiful writing, this is not the book for you. The authors' tortuously plodding prose nearly drove me to the brink, and I have Master's degrees in both exercise physiology and nutritional sciences, giving me an inherent interest in the subject matter, perhaps the only reasons why I made it through.

Why Calories Count did have at least one redeeming feature: it's a short introduction to a ton of ideas that are rarely considered together, but should be, and, despite its failings, for this reason this book could be required reading at a very early point in all health-related majors. (I hesitate to say should because of the book's uninspired writing, which may inspire not a few students to change majors.)

Ok, maybe two redeeming features: another of its strengths is its inclusion of some of the historical developments in calorie science and, more broadly, nutritional science--heaven knows we need to know the history of any given field of study in order to progress. I've found that in the exercise and nutritional sciences (at least where I studied), the history has been largely left out, so it's been nice to read this and have small ah-ha! moments here and there as well-known concepts, till now largely adrift, suddenly found their historical moorings.

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