Americans spend $33 billion annually on diet and exercise programs, yet we are fatter than ever – and it's killing us. According to a recent Surgeon General's report, more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight, including a growing number of children, all of whom face such increased, potentially life-threatening health risks as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. The Hungry Gene 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. Acclaimed science journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell goes to the front lines of the struggle against fat – from the quiet facility in Maine where the first superobese mice were bred more than thirty years ago, to Rockefeller University in New York where scientists worked around the clock to isolate the gene that causes obesity. Along the way Shell looks at how medicine is dealing with the fat crisis with radical and controversial surgical techniques, what the incidence of mordant obesity among native islanders in Micronesia tells us about its evolutionary roots, and how drug companies are racing to create a pill to cure this "Trillion Dollar Disease." She also takes aim at the increasingly obesity-enabling culture that lies behind the crisis – from the expanding suburban sprawl that has fostered America's car-centered sedentary lifestyle to the fast-food marketers who prey on the jammed schedules of today's two-income families. Weaving science, history, and personal stories, the narrative builds to a powerful conclusion that reveals how we can beat the obesity pandemic before it beats us. Gripping and provocative, The Hungry Gene is the unsettling saga of how the world got fat – and what we can do about it.
"In The Hungry Gene, one of America's finest science writers tackles one of our most urgent public health issues."
- Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation
"In The Hungry Gene, Ellen Ruppel Shell gives us a clear, inviting, and entertaining look at this fascinating subject, and at the sociopolitical underpinnings to the mysterious – and frightening – obesity pandemic. Beautifully written and scrupulously researched, The Hungry Gene is for everyone who has worried – or wondered – about their weight."
- Jon Weiner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Beak of the Finch
"An indefatigable reporter with a novelist's sense of character and drama [...] "
- John Horgan, author of The End of Science
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