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Brief Revewis - Non-fiction
by Becky Liddell

ON ONE SIDE, there are the health reformers, fuelled by fundamentalist zeal and stridently promoting dietary regimens whose benefits are questionable; on the other, sober science, dedicated to controlled experiments and statistical proof to establish the links between nutrition and wellbeing. That, basically, is The Food Fight: Truth, Myth and the Food-Health Connection (Random House, 360 pages, $17.50 paper) according to Scott Mowbray. The book is chock-full of background on the rise of food faddism, and includes a useful, if somewhat skimpy, discussion of all the current nutritional villains - white flour, sugar, high-fat foods, additives, etc. - which turn out to be not as dastardly as is popularly believed. At least according to scientific evidence. But herein lies the greatest weakness of The Food Fight. Mowbray is skeptical, though usually polite, in assessing the claims of various health reformers, some of which, admittedly, are flakier than pie-crust. But the limitations of the scientific method and conventional medicine (which one critic describes as a "branch of the chemical industry") are barely touched on.

Moreover, though Mowbray criticizes food-reform philosophy as "an inadequate and wishful response to real troubles" such as the environmental crisis, he generally fails to put nutrition issues in their political and social context, as if the impact of an individual's food choice were confined to his or her own metabolism. An exception is his brief discussion of organic farming, whose practices are far less damaging to the soil than those of orthodox agriculture.

If you're interested in the connection between diet and health, The Food Fight is a good appetizer, but I wouldn't make it the main course.


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