Cover image for The hungry gene : the science of fat and the future of thin
The hungry gene : the science of fat and the future of thin
Shell, Ellen Ruppel, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
294 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC628 .S48 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Shell takes an unflinching look at the spreading obesity pandemic, guiding readers through the ongoing quest to unravel the genetic and behavioral basis of one of the most vexing scientific mysteries of our time. Gripping and provocative, here is the unsettling saga of how the world got fat--and what can be done about it.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Science journalist Shell brings science, history, and economics to bear in this penetrating look at how and why an increasing number of people in developed nations are obese and what can be done about it. Shell outlines the life-threatening illnesses posed by obesity--hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. She explores historic public and medical opinions on obesity--from attributing it to lack of moral fortitude to classifying it as a genetic disorder--and the various cures, including starvation and stomach stapling. Shell also offers a fascinating cast in the scientists, doctors, and patients who are tracking down the causes of obesity. Despite the general lack of public sympathy for the obese, the predicted profits to be made on weight reduction are fueling a growing conflict between scientific discovery and commercial interests. Readers interested in health and science will enjoy this fascinating book, although be forewarned that some descriptions may be too graphic for some readers' tastes. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

More than 1.1 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese. How and why did the world get so fat? Shell, a journalist and codirector of the Program in Science Journalism at Boston University, explores the issue from many angles including the roles of genetics, pharmaceutical companies, the food industry and social class. She charts the growth in scientific research on obesity and obesity treatments in the last decade (from stomach stapling to the notoriously dangerous drug Fen-Phen), explaining the biology of metabolism that makes it so difficult to circumvent the body's appetite. Shell also explores the lifestyle culprits behind obesity, traveling to Micronesia to document the residents of the island of Kosrae, whose average life span has plummeted in recent years due to the introduction of high-fat Western food. Though she lucidly explains the physiology of fat, Shell fills the book with chatty profiles of patients and doctors ("Rudy Leibel is a small man and trim... He has a degree in English literature, and a weakness for poetry") and her prose reads like that of a glossy magazine. There is also much in the book that may be familiar to readers; the spotlights on new obesity treatments are compelling, but it will come as no surprise that too much high-fat, calorie-dense food and too little exercise trigger obesity. On the other hand, given that Big-Tobacco-style class-action lawsuits against fast food companies are under consideration, some may find Shell's arguments for the regulation of junk-food TV advertising, among other measures, timely and provocative. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is not quick-fix diet book. It's a science journalist's study of why we are fatter than ever (60 percent of Americans should be skipping dessert today) and what is being done about it. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.