The Crazy Makersby Published 02 Apr 2001
|The Crazy Makers.pdf|
|Publisher||Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam|
Argues that American food manufacturers are developing products that have a detrimental affect on human brain power and identifies a relationship between prepared foods and illness.
The Crazy Makers Reviews
Some of my reasons for not liking this book may have to do with the fact that it's kind of dated - it was written in 2000, and nutritional science has come a long way since then. I agree with what she says generally - that eating a lot of processed food isn't good for us, that breastfeeding is better than formula, and that we should eat better for a variety of reasons. But I'm not sure I agree with her reasons completely - like I don't think that additives like MSG literally make us crazy. I think they interfere with our good health in the long-term, but are they responsible for things like teenage moodiness and ADHD? Her science didn't prove that for me. I also disliked that she used herself and her family as an example most of the time (it was a little too personal); in general, I couldn't relate to most of the examples she gave.
However, I think what she says is generally a good idea, I just don't agree with why. She raises a few good points (like not only is baby formula not as good as breastmilk nutritionally, when used in the 3rd world, formula may actually lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancy), and the recipes in the back look pretty good and easy. However, the recipes aren't anything groundbreaking and if you picked up a copy of 'Cooking Light' you could probably find similar ideas. For baby food and pre-natal nutrition, there are also better, more thorough books dedicated just to those topics.
I don't think I'd recommend this.
Are you one of those people who figures diet soda and "light" yogurt are good alternatives to the stuff with REAL sugar in them? Are you, like my mom, convinced that a Kudos bar is a "healthy" snack?
Well, here's some news: foods that are processed in a big plant on an assembly line and are injected with lab created chemicals are not all that great for you. (Sure, those pills in your cupboard are lab created chemicals. I know, I know.)
In this book, the author calls out companies who have a blatant disregard for public health. She gives out "Crazy Maker" awards to companies that, in her opinion, contribute to mental illness and the increases we see in autism/ADHD and so on.
The makers of aspartame received an award. Go ahead and google aspartame poisoning. (please. choose the real sugar.)
The author gives Starbucks a "Crazy Maker" award for helping produce a culture hooked on caffeine. I thought that was reaching a little bit. I mean, really, coffee is evil? After thinking on it for a few days (between sips of coffee, no less) I decided she has a point. Caffeine is a stimulant. It is known to do crazy things to your system, like increase anxiety and irritability. Hmmm. Anti-anxiety drugs are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the US. Connection?
If coffee shops were shut down and caffeine was banned, you can bet your ass that people would be in some dirty back alley giving hand jobs for a cup of Starbucks!
So by eating a diet that is natural and balanced we can maintain and restore brain health, right?
Not easy to do in a hurried culture.
Much easier to have a doctor fill us up with drugs, right?
Very simply, the old saying covers it : Garbage in, garbage out.
Go have a cup of coffee with artificial sweetener and reflect on it.
Interesting link on sales and abuse of anti-anxiety/anti-depression drugs and children. (scary stats!)
This book covers the effects of nutrition on brain development throughout life. Chapters start with prenatal nutrition and continue through adulthood. I would strongly advise parents skip directly to whatever stage their child is at now. Simontacchi is very alarmist and while many of her claims may be true, not all people react the same way to foods. Some people are far more affected by less than optimal nutrition than others. Reading about stages your child has already passed through is only going to cause parents to feel bad about something they cannot change. Unless you ate an exemplary diet while pregnant, breastfed your child for a few years while eating the perfect diet yourself, and followed with all organic, homemade babyfood, trust me when I tell you that you will be happier if you just move on to the sections dealing with where your children are now. However, don't expect a lot of specific advice--just dire warnings of the dangers of inadequate nutrition.
The author does a good job of explaining the importance of certain nutrients to brain development, however she offers very little practical advice beyond advising readers to eat less processed food. It's good advice, but there are no specifics and the recipe and menu sections definitely send mixed messages. The menus do give some clue as to how the author recommends you eat, but there are several recipes using white flour and lots of sugar. Others called for protein powders--it's hard to get more processed than that. One recipe calls for vanilla yogurt with no added sugars. I've never seen a flavored yogurt with no added sugar unless an artificial sweetener was used. Since she strongly advocates against all artificial sweeteners, it appears she is calling for an ingredient which doesn't exist in the current marketplace. Overall I wasn't particularly impressed with the recipes.
My other concern about this book is that some of the claims she makes don't seem to be particularly well documented. She often cites food journals she collected from teachers who assigned them at her request. I have no doubt some of them were pretty shocking, but there is no way to know how seriously students took them, or how well they were able to understand and complete the assignment. Some of the children were quite young. In one example, a child (age 8-11) wrote that s/he had meatloaf for dinner. Simontacchi counted that as a day with no vegetables. While it is possible the child only ate meatloaf, it is equally likely there were side dishes which the child ate and did not record. The author also took some leaps when evaluating the food journals. One child recorded eating burritos for dinner which the author jumped on immediately as a processed food. It may have been a pre-made frozen burrito, but it may also have been homecooked beans and/or meats and/or veggies on a whole wheat tortilla topped with fresh made salsa. Because of the way the food journal project was conducted there is simply no way to know.
I don't want to make it sound like I don't think good nutrition is important. I think it is extremely important. But, I don't think there is much point in scaring people without telling them how to solve the problem. If you are interested in learning more about how nutrition affects brain development, I would recommend this book. If you are interested in practical advice about how to eat well for optimal nutrition, I'd skip this one.
Note: There is an updated edition of this book which came out in 2007 (the edition I read is from 2000). The updated edition may address some of the concerns I've raised. I don't know much about it other than a new chapter was added. I was unable to locate a copy of the 2007 edition and although Amazon sells it, if you click on the preview it shows the 2000 edition.
This was an interesting perspective that our diet directly affects our mood. I liked that it walked through the requirements of the brain through each age (infant, child, teen, adult). It was interesting to note that as child eat more and more sugary foods, attention spans have decreased and test scores have dropped.
However, I feel that this book places too much of the blame on our diet and the 'perpetrators' of the Standard American Diet and not enough blame on the individuals themselves. Yes, men in jail might have vitamin or mineral deficiencies, but that does not absolve them from their actions. Teenagers that are suicidal or cut themselves cannot righteously place their blame on the food manufacturers. This book was moderately centered on placing the blame on the food manufacturers for all the ills of modern society.
Some facts are interesting and will encourage any readers to have balanced diets, but this book fell on the side of sensationalism. While lambasting infant formula for containing trace quantities of mercury, it failed to mention that breast milk also contains mercury. I don't know that I would take this book to heart. I have read better books about nutrition and the downfall of civilization.
The Crazy Makers by Carol Simontacchi is a non- fiction book about how all types of food are potentially damaging to all ages. The book discusses why certain groupings of food are bad for humans, the history of how those groupings came to be, the harmful chemicals within those groupings, and the consequences of lacking vitamins/chemicals that the brain uses to function. Simontacchi explains why we turn to things such as coffee, sugar as well as other food groups, and the effect it has on our brain development and growth. Simontacchi made a point to hammer facts into the readers brain, therefore the book seemed to drag on.
At the end of the book, there are two chapters dedicated to how to change your eating lifestyle and recipes for healthy meals. The entire book stresses the importance of home made meals and how difficult it is to find healthy meals anywhere else. Chapter 7 is about how to be optimistic in finding healthy foods. Chapter 8 is a recipe book, and there are 2 appendixes following.
I recommend this book to anyone who has recently started living alone, who has young children, or is thinking about having children, and anyone who is curious about how the brain reacts to chemicals found in foods. There are many scientific terms that will be difficult to understand if you have not taken biology or a similar course, and the facts become somewhat repetitive. I give the book 4/5 stars because of the repetition.