2015, Books, Food, Non-Fiction

Vitamania (2015) by Catherine Price

This is a fascinating and entertaining overview of the American obsession with vitamins and supplements as a proxy for healthy eating. It’s a quick and fun read with lots of information, but it did lead something to be desired.

Price is a good writer, her style is breezy but also gives you enough detail (most of the time) that you don’t feel like you’re getting only surface-level information about a very complicated topic. Occasionally she is laugh-out-loud funny, which is also nice. She does a good job balancing journalistic visits to various locations with history. The best thing about how she writes and how the book is written is that she is willing to accept uncertainty – you might say that the book is really about how little we know about nutrition.

I do feel like the book could have been a little more detailed. I know that the point is that we still don’t know very much about this. And I understand that nutritional science is a, um, inaccessible field, but I do think a little more detail as to the “how” and “why” would have helped. For example, the valuable first appendix should have been in the body of the text, in my opinion. I needed to read it, it turns out. Also, am I wrong in thinking she never actually explains why B became B1, B2, B3 etc. Maybe somehow I missed it but honestly I don’t recall her saying why. There were some other moments too where I wondered why she didn’t go into more detail. It’s not exactly a long book.

At the end, it felt a little bit too much like “one woman’s journey…” to me than a thorough investigation into vitamins and supplements. Mostly, she does a good balancing act between the two, but I would have liked a little more history and science, even if it meant a few more “I went to see Dr. so and so at…”

But I still learned a whole bunch. And I laughed out loud a few times (which I can’t always say about these types of books). And I found my nutrition beliefs pretty much confirmed, which is always a pleasant experience.


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