Cover image for Fat: fighting the obesity epidemic
Fat: fighting the obesity epidemic
Pool, Robert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
x, 292 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


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RC628 .P625 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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When the leptin gene was discovered in 1994, news articles predicted that there might soon be an easy, pharmaceutical solution to the growing public health crisis of obesity. Yet this scientific breakthrough merely proved once again how difficult the fight against fat really is. Despite themany appetite-suppressants, diet pills, and weight-loss programs available today, approximately 30 percent of Americans are obese. And that number is expanding rapidly. Fat is the engaging story of the scientific quest to understand and control body weight. Covering the entire twentieth century, Robert Pool chronicles the evolving blame-game for fat--from being a result of undisciplined behavior to subconscious conflicts, physiological disease, andenvironmental excess. Readers in today's weight-conscious society will be surprised to learn that being overweight was actually encouraged by doctors and popular health magazines up until the 1930s, when the health risks associated with being overweight were publicly recognized. Thus began decadesof research and experiments that subsequently explained appetite, metabolism, and the development of fat cells. Pool effectively reanimates the colorful characters, curious experiments, brilliant insights and wrong turns that led to contemporary scientific understanding of America's epidemic.While he acknowledges the advances in the pharmacological fight against flab, he underscores that the real problem of obesity is not losing the weight but keeping it off. Drugs offer a quick fix, but they aren't the ultimate answer. American society must remedy the unhealthy daily environments ofits cities and towns, and those who have struggled with their weight and have experienced the "yo-yo" cycle of dieting must understand the underlying science of body weight that makes their struggle more than a question of willpower.

Author Notes

Robert Pool is a freelance science writer who has worked on the staff of Science and Nature. He is also the author of Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology and Eve's Rib: Searching for the Biological Roots of Sex Differences. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a well-paced narrative, science writer Pool (Beyond Engineering; Eve's Rib) traces the history of obesity in Western society and the ups and downs of medical science's ability to determine what causes some people to gain a considerable amount of weight and why it is so difficult to loseÄand keep offÄthose extra pounds. For the longest time, both doctors and ordinary people have believed that losing and maintaining a lower weight were matters of personal responsibilityÄa very American perspective, the author avers. Certainly, if people change their eating habits and lifestyle, and are motivated, they can lose weight, but this formula of mind over matter is not universally successful. Moreover, despite recent breakthroughs in medical research, more and more Americans continue to become obese. The solution, argues the author, is that American doctors and nonprofessionals must change their beliefs about obesity: we must regard it not as an individual problem to be solved through willpower, but as a disease and, more specifically, a social disease "caused by a sick environment"Äthe fast-food and snacking environmentÄ"to which some of us are more susceptible than others." Our bodies, which have changed little since our hunter-gatherer days, have not adapted well to our advanced, convenient, more sedentary Western lifestyle. Pool's aim here is to alert people to what he calls a rising epidemic. His arguments are cogent and convincing, but the reader may be disappointed to learn that Pool doesn't offer any suggestions to how we may be able to promote such widespread change. (Jan.) Forecast: A recent series of articles on obesity in the New York Times indicates the hunger (so to speak) that exists for information on weight loss; still, this book is mostly for the minority of readers who are looking not just for advice on how to lose weight but for a broader reflection on the problem. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Why is obesity increasing in our society? Why is it so difficult to lose weight? Numerous studies have shown the lengths to which our bodies will go to maintain a particular set weight. The ease of the Western lifestyle has only contributed to this problem. With a minimum of scientific and medical jargon, science journalist Pool (Dialogue and Interpretation of Illness) summarizes years of obesity research to illustrate the genetic, physiological, and environmental factors that cause us to gain weight. While there are some promising new treatments in the research stages, the author enforces the idea that a change in attitude and environment will be necessary to conquer this disease. This fascinating investigative journey into the history of obesity will go a long way toward removing the stigma attached to being overweight and will increase our understanding of the complex issues that contribute to the obesity epidemic. Highly recommended for all libraries.DTina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction A Most Peculiar Plaguep. 3
1 Medicalizing Obesityp. 15
2 The Answer That Wasn'tp. 39
3 There's No Place like Homeostasisp. 61
4 The Legacy of the Great Firep. 89
5 That Eureka Momentp. 111
6 The Parable of the Pimasp. 137
7 Setting the Set Pointp. 157
8 One Pill Makes You Larger, and One Pill Makes You Smallp. 183
9 Just Who's in Charge Here?p. 213
Notesp. 229
Indexp. 283