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Book review: 'Fat, gluttony and sloth: Obesity in literature, art and medicine'

A well-researched guide to obesity throughout the ages.

A well-researched guide to obesity throughout the ages.



Obesity we are told is an expanding problem with all its attendant health problems. It may even cause a reduction in life expectancy in today's and future generations if it continues to rise.

The authors of this book however look back over the ages to discover that physicians have always associated obesity with poor health and premature death - even in Egyptian records written on papyrus dated 1552 BC there were descriptions of diabetes, the chronic disease most closely linked to obesity.

The book contains a fascinating look at how obesity being relatively rare in the 18th and 19th centuries prompted stories of 'celebrated gentlemen of extreme corpulence' and also fat folk being put on show as freaks.

The chapters that follow explore the history of food and drink, and how man has addressed obesity through the ages by diet, exercise and drugs.

The authors state that the cause of super-obesity is almost always overeating and lack of physical exercise, so they then go on to trace gluttony and sloth through the ages.

Other chapters look at obesity portrayed in art, literature and film and the change in what is perceived as the ideal body shape through time.

It was somewhat apt that I finished reading this book the same week the newspapers were reporting the new technique of breast augmentation in which the fat is removed from an unwanted place in the patient's body and replaced in the breast.

The book is extremely well researched and illustrated throughout and a book which health professionals who have any interest in the causes and management of obesity will enjoy as it explores much more than just medical fields. Don't, however, take my word for it. The proof of the pudding is in the reading.

Fat, gluttony and sloth Fat, gluttony and sloth

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