I’ve been meaning to read Barry Glassner’s The Gospel of Food since it came out a few months ago, because seeing the same mind that wrote The Culture of Fear* take on the food police promises to be an utterly delightful reading experience. Not sure why I haven’t gotten to it yet, except for the stack of 8 gazillion other unread books in my apartment.
Now that I’ve read Jacob Sullum’s review of it, I’m bumping it up on the list.
Glassner is not oblivious to health concerns, but he points out when they are exaggerated or mistaken (as you would expect from the author of The Culture of Fear, a 1999 book that debunked such bugaboos as road rage, Internet addiction, and school violence). He correctly notes that the science linking eating to health is fuzzier than know-it-alls such as Brody and Jacobson like to admit, especially when it comes to “debatable claims about the lethality of fatness.” He reviews the U.S. government’s embarrassing retreat from the assertion that weighing too much kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year and presses Walter Willett, a widely quoted Harvard nutritionist, for evidence to back up his claim that extra pounds cause heart disease. “As near as I can tell,” Glassner writes after reviewing the relevant literature, “not a single published study demonstrates that heart disease among the overweight and moderately obese results from their heft rather than from other factors that contribute to both obesity and heart disease.” He is similarly skeptical of conventional explanations for rising weight trends in the U.S., noting that “the explosion of the fast-food industry predated the upsurge in obesity.”
And that’s just a taste, so to speak.
So as soon as I finish the book I’m in the middle of (A.M. Homes, The Mistress’s Daughter; thumbs up) and write the reviews of Rethinking Thin and No One Belongs Here More than You I’ve been putting off, The Gospel of Food comes next.
*Speaking of The Culture of Fear, Frank Furedi’s book by almost the same name is just as awesome as Glassner’s.