Fear of Food

Fear of Food

A History of Why We Worry About What We Eat

Book - 2012
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There may be no greater source of anxiety for Americans today than the question of what to eat and drink. Are eggs the perfect protein, or are they cholesterol bombs? Is red wine good for my heart or bad for my liver? Will pesticides, additives, and processed foods kill me? Here with some very rare and very welcome advice is food historian Harvey Levenstein: Stop worrying! In Fear of Food Levenstein reveals the people and interests who have created and exploited these worries, causing an extraordinary number of Americans to allow fear to trump pleasure in dictating their food choices. He tells of the prominent scientists who first warned about deadly germs and poisons in foods, and their successors who charged that processing foods robs them of life-giving vitamins and minerals. These include Nobel Prize-winner Eli Metchnikoff, who advised that yogurt would enable people to live to be 140 by killing the life-threatening germs in their intestines, and Elmer McCollum, the "discoverer" of vitamins, who tailored his warnings about vitamin deficiencies to suit the food producers who funded him. Levenstein also highlights how large food companies have taken advantage of these concerns by marketing their products to combat the fear of the moment. Such examples include the co-opting of the "natural foods" movement, which grew out of the belief that inhabitants of a remote Himalayan Shangri-la enjoyed remarkable health and longevity by avoiding the very kinds of processed food these corporations produced, and the physiologist Ancel Keys, originator of the Mediterranean Diet, who provided the basis for a powerful coalition of scientists, doctors, food producers, and others to convince Americans that high-fat foods were deadly. In Fear of Food, Levenstein offers a much-needed voice of reason; he expertly questions these stories of constantly changing advice to reveal that there are no hard-and-fast facts when it comes to eating. With this book, he hopes to free us from the fears that cloud so many of our food choices and allow us to finally rediscover the joys of eating something just because it tastes good.
Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2012.
ISBN: 9780226473741
Branch Call Number: 613.2 Levenste 04/2012
Characteristics: ix, 218 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm.


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ksoles Dec 13, 2012

Cancer. Climate change. Terrorism. So much to fear, so little time. But perhaps nothing inspires global panic so much as food: not having enough of it, over-processing it, being poisoned by it.

In "Fear of Food," Harvey Levenstein, an emeritus professor of history at McMaster University, serves up a delightful review of the origins, motivations, and sustaining factors behind the huge number of warnings that have emerged over the past century concerning the safety of our food supply. He shows how simple scientific observations easily become overblown, invalid pronouncements that cause unprecedented concern.

In a clever observation, Levenstein notesthat "for every PhD there is an equal and opposite PhD." Bottom line? Stay skeptical about all the fear-inducing claims out there; both eating habits and food claims do best with moderation.

Originally presented as a series of invited lectures, this readable book combines social history, social psychology, and food science and provides a great springboard for discussion.


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