About 20% of us are so overweight that our lives will likely be cut short by excess fat, writes Pasadena journalist Greg Critser in his informative and readable book, Fat Land. Critser cites experts in the fields of obesity, epidemiology, nutrition and public health as he looks into the reasons behind this fattening of America: If current eating and exercising patterns are left unchecked, almost all Americans will be overweight by 2050, according to one expert he consults. According to this same expert, a physiologist Critser calls "the dean of obesity studies," becoming obese is now the "normal response to the American environment." — Bernadette Murphy
You reap what you sow. According to Critser, a leading journalist on health and obesity, America about 30 years ago went crazy sowing corn. Determined to satisfy an American public that "wanted what it wanted when it wanted it," agriculture secretary Earl Butz determined to lower American food prices by ending restrictions on trade and growing. The superabundance of cheap corn that resulted inspired Japanese scientists to invent a cheap sweetener called "high fructose corn syrup." This sweetener made food look and taste so great that it soon found its way into everything from bread to soda pop. Researchers ignored the way the stuff seemed to trigger fat storage. In his illuminating first book (which began life as a cover story for Harper's Magazine), Critser details what happened as this river of corn syrup (and cheap, lardlike palm oil) met with a fast-food marketing strategy that prized sales-via supersized "value" meals-over quality or conscience. The surgeon general has declared obesity an epidemic. About 61% of Americans are now overweight-20% of us are obese. Type 2 (i.e., fat-related) diabetes is exploding, even among children. Critser vividly describes the physical suffering that comes from being fat. He shows how the poor become the fattest, victimized above all by the lack of awareness. Critser's book is a good first step in rectifying that. In vivid prose conveying the urgency of the situation, with just the right amount of detail for general readers, Critser tells a story that they won't be able to shake when they pass the soda pop aisle in the supermarket. This book should attract a wide readership. (Jan. 14) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Childhood obesity, diabetes, and related illnesses are becoming major health problems in America. Nutrition journalist Critser presents a critical analysis of the many social and economic factors that make Americans, contrary to the book's subtitle, the second-fattest people in the world (the South Sea Islanders are fatter). He blames parents' reluctance to monitor their children's eating habits; the marketing tactics of fast-food companies, which influence us to overeat; the preponderance of fad diets; the phasing out of physical education programs in schools; and the sale of fast foods at schools to save money on dining facilities. Lower-income families have higher rates of obesity regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender, which the author attributes to lack of information about diet and exercise and the wide diversity of cultural beliefs about weight, body size, and self-esteem. Critser urges Americans to tackle obesity head on, concluding with descriptions of initiatives that worked when communities launched a cooperative effort to change their eating habits and avoid the path to lifelong obesity. An important work that belongs in all nutrition and public health collections. [See also Robert Pool's excellent Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic and Eric Schlosser's scathing Fast Food Nation.-Ed.]-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Why worry about bioterrorism? We’re poisoning ourselves with calories, says freelance journalist and former fatty Crister. You are probably overweight; more than 60% of American adults are. Fat is pandemic. We are grazing, snacking, eating mountains of fat. Worse, we are stuffing our kids like Strasbourg geese. The problem goes back at least a generation, to the importation of palm oil (a.k.a. "tree lard") and the use of high-fructose sweeteners under the aegis of Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz. Tasty, long-lasting junk food could be formulated with these cheap ingredients, never mind the dangerous health effects. Pepsi and Pizza Hut took over school lunchrooms. At home or in restaurants, portion sizes burgeoned. Sprawled before our TVs we watched Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda. We believed Dr. Atkins. Kids waddled through fading Phys. Ed. programs. Now, family, school, culture, ethnicity, and income all influence excess caloric intake. Gluttony doesn’t seem so sinful today. But fat is bad, Crister says. Increased risk factors include coronary heart disease, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, gall bladder disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and endometrial cancer, each with a bad prognosis. Food science, metabolic mechanics, and medical details are all set forth, though readers who find this book contains more than they want to absorb could profitably settle for the Harper’s cover story that spawned it. The text, though, is generally lean and lucid, with wry commentary on the social aspects of Phat America. J. Lo’s behind isn’t so big, the author concludes, and anorexia isn’t very widespread. Preventing our children from looking like mini sumo wrestlers is atimely idea, and this text is a worthy contribution. (It was apparently written before McDonald’s announced reduced use of transfats, surely too late with too little.) Crister discusses the politics of this growing public health problem and has some suggestions to fix it. In sum, it takes behavior modification and willpower. Savvy and scary.
"Highly readable." -The New York Times Book Review The New York Times Book Review
"An in-depth, well-researched, and thoughtful exploration of the 'fat boom' in America."Boston Globe Boston Globe
Greg Critser shows how obesity has become the United States' leading social issue." -San Francisco Chronicle The San Francisco Chronicle
"Reading this book will take ten pounds right off you."Vanity Fair Vanity Fair
"[An] absorbing volume, of living large."Michiko Kakutani, New York Times The New York Times
"A fluidly written, riveting tale . . .[an] impassioned, graphic account."Heller McAlpin, Newsday Newsday
"Interesting and provocative . . . A lively book . . . Critser is rightly incensed."Laura Miller, Salon.com
“Just perusing the book, and seeing the [obesity] problem presented in such an articulate and lucid manner, can’t help but make more informed food consumers out of readers.”Los Angeles Times The Los Angeles Times
“One scary book and a good companion to Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. Consider it Critser’s cry of ‘Watch it, Fatso!’ to our bloated nation.”Seattle Post-Intelligencer Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Urgent and easily digested . . ..Critser lays out the smorgasbord of cultural and economic ingredients that combine to make fatness as American as a deep-fried apple fritter.”San Diego Union-Tribune The San Diego Union-Tribune
“Incisive . . .The book makes you slightly ill at the notion of an overfed wasteland.”Philadelphia Inquirer Philadelphia Inquirer