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A Voice That Makes Sense of Fad Diets

EATING WELL FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH By Dr. Andrew Weil. Random House Audiobooks; unabridged nonfiction; six cassettes; 10 hours; $39.95; read by Alexander Marshall. (CD version and abridged cassette version also available.)

YOUR MIRACLE BRAIN By Jean Carper. Harper Audio; abridged nonfiction; two cassettes; three hours; $18; read by the author.

May 08, 2000|ROCHELLE O'GORMAN

High fat, no carbs; no fat, all carbs; no sugar; food combining. The Paleolithic diet, the Zone, the Hollywood diet, the grapefruit diet. Can't keep them straight? Of course you can't. That's because a new fad diet arrives with each new season, and there is an audio book for each of them.

Finally, there is an antidote to all of this information. Andrew Weil tackles fad diets, food labels and basic nutrition in his latest audio book. He does all of this with common sense, slightly irreverent humor, and a writing style that employs lay terms and avoids confusing science-speak.

Weil is a Harvard-educated medical doctor who has made a name in the world of alternative medicine with his bestselling books "Spontaneous Healing" and "Eight Weeks to Optimum Health." He tackles various aspects of nutrition, examining such regimens as Robert Atkin's high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet and Dean Ornish's low-fat plan. He explains the necessity of omega-3 fatty acids, the rancidity of oils used in fast-food restaurants, and the horrors of hydrogenated fats and chemical food dyes.

He also outlines a sensible eating plan that is easy to follow. He tells us what he eats and even confesses to his own attempt at a crash diet while a college freshman. His saga of safflower oil and sausages as a weight-loss plan is laugh-out-loud funny.

There are a few sections in the audio that are a bit dry, such as the occasional detailed medical explanation, but for the most part this book works well on audio. Weil's writing is accessible and occasionally amusing. But the printed version is more convenient if you need to look up specific information, such as the foods that might exacerbate arthritis.

Though unabridged, this recording does not contain the recipes in the print version, or the useful compendium of resources at the end of the book.

Weil, who has a deep voice and a polished manner, reads the abridged versions. Happily, Alexander Marshall matches him on the unabridged version, in both pleasing timbre and friendliness. He understands and expresses Weil's mildly sardonic humor.

*

There is always a new fad diet or miracle cure on the market. (Consider the "marvel" of oat bran, thought to dramatically lower cholesterol; recent studies indicate that may not be the case.) After a while, one does become skeptical.

That said, I admit to liking Jean Carper's latest nutrition book. She offers case studies for her findings and does not suggest anything more harmful than adding fish oil and blueberries to one's diet.

Carper believes that if we feed our brains, much as we do our hearts, we can reverse "brain breakdown" as we get older. She also says that we can raise our children's IQs by feeding them fish oil. She cites cases and includes pages of references in the printed version of the book. But as in many self-help books, this is often repetitive and padded. Much of the unnecessary verbiage was trimmed for audio, making it a more palatable choice.

The bestselling author of "Miracle Cures," Carper is a pro behind the microphone. She reads with ease, sounding much like a friendly relative offering advice. Though most of the production moves quickly along, it sometimes bogs down in scientific explanations that are unspeakably dreary.

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