From the Publisher
“Readers will not need a PhD in chemistry to follow along; Schwarcz wisely limits technical terms to the minimum while adequately explaining the chemistry involved in digestion.”
Rachel M. Minkin
“… an entertaining guide through the tangle of conflicting research studies, advertising claims, special interest groups, age-old myths and popular opinion that make diet a cloudy subject. … leaves readers with a rational framework for evaluating the complex nature of foods and how they affect health.”
"An Apple a Day hashes out hype and irrational panic one chemical compound and one foodstuff at a time. Between ubiquitous cover-ups and endemic hysteria about what’s in our food and our bloodstreams, there’s nothing more helpful than a clear-speaking and apparently non-aligned food chemist who is willing to identify the real risks and defuse the rampant bad information out there. Addressing allegations that companies like Monsanto and Novartis intentionally poison consumers, Schwarcz urges skepticism, because “no company wants to undermine its existence or its profits by marketing a dangerous substance.” Discounting unfounded rumors, Schwarcz identifies a handful of foodstuffs and practices that should cause real concern. The most serious are the rampant use of antibiotics in livestock and indications that trans fats may do serious harm to people’s memories."
Widely known in Canada from his Montreal Gazette column, and work with the Discovery Channel, Schwarcz (Let Them Eat Flax) is an entertaining guide through the tangle of conflicting research studies, advertising claims, special interest groups, age-old myths and popular opinion that make diet a cloudy subject. In short chapters he aims his microscope at such highly touted foods as tomatoes, acai berries, curry and soy; additives like nitrites, artificial sweeteners, vitamins and fluoride; contaminants including pesticides, hormones, trans fats and dioxins; and what, for him, are suspect fads. Schwarcz contends that while there are no "magical" foods, a diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products and moderation are key to good health. To help readers make informed choices, he ably cuts through many controversies and will likely stir up a few (he challenges those who condemn milk consumption, espouse detoxification and promote kosher foods, for example). Schwarcz makes learning fun by peppering his text with fascinating facts (coffee contains naturally occurring carcinogens, and apples have formaldehyde). More importantly, he leaves readers with a rational framework for evaluating the complex nature of foods and how they affect health. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Every day, consumers are bombarded with new food and nutrition information. Are genetically modified foods dangerous? (Maybe, maybe not.) Should we eat fish for the omega-3 fatty acids or avoid it because of the mercury? (Eat in moderation.) Will an apple a day really keep the doctor away? (No, but eat it anyway.) Schwarcz (Let Them Eat Flax), a chemist and the director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society, has created a useful reference work for harried consumers. Whether reading cover to cover or picking relevant chapters, readers will find this book a convenient way to separate food fact from food fiction. Particularly timely are the chapters "Substances Leaching from Plastics" and "The Bisphenol A Issue," which highlight current health concerns. An entire section helps debunk questionable diets. Readers will not need a PhD in chemistry to follow along; Schwarcz wisely limits technical terms to the minimum while adequately explaining the chemistry involved in digestion. His latest is strongly recommended for public libraries, especially those with consumer health and nutrition collections. Also recommended for medical libraries with consumer health collections.
Rachel M. Minkin
Read an Excerpt
Is there a better subject with which to begin a discussion of the relationship between food and health than apples? After all, doesn’t “an apple a day keep the doctor away”? Maybe it does, if you throw it at her! There are no single foods that have magical health properties. There are good diets and there are bad diets. It is certainly possible to have a good diet and never eat apples, just as it is possible to gorge on apples and have a horrible diet. What really matters in terms of nutrition is the net effect produced by all of the chemicals that wend their way into our bodies from the food we eat. Yes, chemicals. I can practically see those eyebrows being raised. It may seem unusual to see the word “chemical” without an adjective like “poisonous,” in front of it. Actually, without appropriate context, “toxic chemical” is a meaningless term. . . . Everything in the world is made of chemicals, and if you restricted yourself to a diet free of chemicals, you would be dining in a vacuum! With that in mind, let’s investigate the chemicals in an apple. So tell me, would you like some nail polish remover in your diet? Or rubbing alcohol? Then have an apple! Yes, all apples contain acetone and isopropanol. And if these don’t sound toxic enough, you can throw in some cyanide. It’s there too. Added by nature, not by humans! Should you then be worried about eating apples? Of course not! The amounts of these chemicals are too small to be of any consequence. Apples, as already mentioned, contain over 300 naturally occurring compounds, and whatever effect the fruit has on our health is a reflection of all of these.