STARRED REVIEW
September 12, 2017

A doctor’s diagnosis

By Robert H. Lustig

The “hacking” Dr. Lustig refers to in The Hacking of the American Mind has nothing to do with sinister forces invading and taking over our computers. Rather, he believes that the processed food and pharmaceutical industries and their lackeys in government are doing the hacking of our bodies and minds. He also casts a wary eye on the addictive properties of technology, which, he says, is more likely to amuse than fulfill us.

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The “hacking” Dr. Lustig refers to in The Hacking of the American Mind has nothing to do with sinister forces invading and taking over our computers. Rather, he believes that the processed food and pharmaceutical industries and their lackeys in government are doing the hacking of our bodies and minds. He also casts a wary eye on the addictive properties of technology, which, he says, is more likely to amuse than fulfill us.

A professor of pediatrics, Lustig fired his first salvo at sugar, the most pernicious ingredient in processed foods, in his 2012 bestseller, Fat Chance. He persists in his battle here against sugar here. However, Lustig’s overarching goal in The Hacking of the American Mind is to delineate the differences between mere pleasure, which is episodic and a doorway to addiction, and the more enduring state of happiness. In doing so, he begins with a discussion of the brain—its designs, functions and defenses against injury. Despite his breezy, conversational style, this early part of the book is fairly slow going.

But the remainder of his text is plainspoken observation, analysis and advice. America is suffering from a health crisis, Lustig says, principally because corporations have taken over virtually every aspect of our lives—from offering mindless entertainment, to feeding us bad food, to selling us medical insurance and supposedly life-enhancing drugs—always for private profit, never for public good. Lustig explains how Lewis Powell Jr., first as a pro-business lawyer, then as a Supreme Court justice, was instrumental in helping destroy government checks against corporate abuses, and subsequent Court decisions have continued to erode these safeguards.

The upshot, Lustig concludes, is that we are basically on our own when it comes to constructing sane and safe lives. To that end, he suggests we hold technology at arm’s length, get more sleep, do more home cooking, be more altruistic and find comfort in mindfulness and in the congenial company of others. And always avoid sugar.

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The Hacking of the American Mind

The Hacking of the American Mind

By Robert H. Lustig
Avery
ISBN 9781101982587

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