Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin

 
9781422352434: Hungry Gene: The Science of Fat and the Future of Thin

In a rare blend of erudition and entertainment, acclaimed science journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell reveals the secret history and subtle politics behind the explosion of obesity. Shell traces the epidemic's inception in the Ice Age, its rise during the Industrial Revolution, and its growth through the early days of medicine and into modernity. She takes readers to the front lines of the struggle to come to grips with this baffling plague — from a children's food marketing convention, to the cutthroat race to find the obese gene, to a far-flung tropical island, where a horrifying outbreak of obesity has helped unravel the disorder's genetic and evolutionary roots. Offering an unflinching insider's look into the radical and controversial surgical and pharmacological approaches used to combat what drug makers have dubbed the trillion-dollar disease, Shell takes aim at the collusion of industry and government that lies behind the crises and shows conclusively that obesity is not a matter of gluttony or weak will, but of an increasingly greedy culture preying on vulnerable human biology. Gripping and provocative, The Hungry Gene is the unsettling saga of how the world got fat — and what we can do about it.

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From the Inside Flap:

American today faces a gathering health crises of epic proportions. The crisis is obesity and the diseases linked to it--hypertension, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. While politicians and public officials declare war against fat, and multinational drug companies race to find a cure, the problem only worsens, with experts estimating that fully half of Americans will be obese--and the majority overweight--within the next quarter century.

In a rare blend of erudition and entertainment, acclaimed science journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell reveals for the first time the secret history and subtle politics behind the explosion of obesity in the United States and the world. Shell traces the epidemics legacy to the Ice Age, its rise through the Industrial Revolution and the early days of medicine and into modernity. She takes readers to the front lines of the struggle to come to grips with this baffling plague--from the modest laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, where the first suberobese mice were bred, to Rockefeller University in New York to witness the cutthroat--and heart breaking--race to clone the obese gene, to the far-flung tropical islands of Micronesia, where a horrifying outbreak of obesity among native islanders has helped scientists tease out the disorder's genetic and evolutionary roots.

The Hungry Gene offers an unfliching insiders look into the radical and controversial pharmacological and surgical techniques used to combat what drug makers have dubbed the trillion dollar disease, exposing the colusion between scientists and industry that for so long muddied the waters of obesity research and endangered untold thousands of unwitting victims. With vivid portraits of the scientists involved, Shell illustrates the breakthrough that proved conclusively that obesity is not a matter of glottony or weak will but of vulnerable genes preyed upon by a hostile environment. Ultimately, she takes aim at the increasingly obesity-enabling culture that lies behind the crisis, telling the hard truths of what must be done to turn the tide on this frightening pandemic.

Weaving cutting edge science, psychology, anthropology with history, Shell builds a compelling narrative culminating in a thought provoking--and radical--call to arms. Gripping and provocative, The Hungry Gene is the unsettling saga of how the world got fat--and what we can do about it.

About the Author:

Ellen Ruppel Shell is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and writes for Discover, The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, and other publications. She is associate professor and codirector of the Program in Science Journalism at Boston University.

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