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Book Reviews

Leslie Beck’s Nutrition Guide for Women: Managing Your Health with Diet, Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs

by Leslie Beck RD

Bio-age: Ten Steps to a Younger You

by Brad J. King and Dr. Michael A. Schmidt

The Silent Thief: Bone-Building Exercises and Essential Strategies to Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis

by Karine Bohme with Frances Budden MD

The rash of health information bombarding the public can stymie anyone trying to stay or get healthy. Should we swallow supplements, exercise until we drop, or stick with Canada’s Food Guide? Some of us are tempted to let nature take its inevitable course, as we all will die sometime. The key to gathering and sifting through this health information, and then acting on it, is organization. Three current books present the latest research, guidelines, and data on nutrition, supplements, exercise, and illness.

Leslie Beck’s Nutrition Guide for Women takes what is probably the best path, the common sense middle road. Beck is a registered dietitian and author of Managing Menopause with Diet, Vitamins and Herbs. Her new book contains nutritional advice for women of all ages. Although Canadian women often live to age 81, and 73% rate nutrition important to their lifestyle, Beck points out that 26% of women in this country are clinically obese. The culprits? Bad diet and lack of exercise.

Beck’s book is divided into seven parts and begins with a guide to essential nutrition needs for women before branching out into specific health areas. Some of the topics covered include heart disease, high cholesterol, depression, eating disorders, premenstrual syndrome, perimenopause, polycystic ovary syndrome, and thyroid disease.

Readers will benefit from Beck’s research on food components and supplements, their use as a preventative or treatment for specific diseases, and how they work synergistically within the body’s diverse systems. She shows how to calculate your body mass index and which symptoms may indicate health risks such as anemia or heart disease. She gives tips on losing weight, including meal suggestions.

Each chapter also contains a disease summary, causes and symptoms of the disease, those at risk, diagnosis, treatments, prevention, and what she calls The Bottom Line summary of actions. Charts showing the breakdown of vitamins, minerals and food compounds, daily supplement amounts, and food serving sizes help the reader decide what to eat, and for those with hypoglycemia, when to eat.

The book also cross-references its various sections well, and provides a chapter-by-chapter reference list at the end. The only drawbacks are its focus on American statistics and a lack of alternatives for food-sensitive individuals (except in the food sensitivities chapter). This book goes on my kitchen bookshelf.

Bio-Age: Ten Steps to a Younger You by Brad J. King, and Michael A. Schmidt, ought to have provided more benefit to readers about living a long healthy life than it actually does. The authors have the expertise. King is a B.C.-based fitness expert, performance nutritionist, and author of Fat Wars: 45 Days to Transform your Body. Michael A. Schmidt is a nutritional biochemist and a professor of nutrition and physiology with a consulting practice in Boulder, Colorado. The book also includes chapters by experts on various fields in the science of aging.

The book eventually falls short of its credentials, though. It contains vast amounts of information – perhaps too much for one volume – covering such diverse topics as albumin, a protein that battles aging, fatty acids, sugars, and the effects of stress, but the book’s overall design does not serve the contents well.

Part I contains the basic tenets of the bio-age philosophy, asking readers how young they want to be and assessing the damage the years have already wrought on the body. The authors cover such problems as high blood pressure and high body fat. The second section, written by various specialists, contains individual chapters that discuss techniques for slowing down the aging process. The chapters are generally interesting, and readers may be surprised to learn how the amount of water we drink and how deeply we sleep affects our overall health. The third part lays out the “Ten Steps to a Younger You” and how to apply them to specific medical conditions.

The actual bio-age self-evaluation test, where readers assess which of the bio-age strategies they should follow, does not occur until near the end of the book. This positioning causes readers to constantly flip to earlier chapters, and the authors have not done much to facilitate the cross-referencing process. Readers will probably find themselves scanning the index to help them find the relevant information.

The Silent Thief: Bone-Building Exercises and Essential Strategies to Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis by personal trainer and fitness consultant, Karine Bohme and Dr. Frances Budden aims to help readers treat and prevent osteoporosis. Bohme, who designs osteoporosis prevention programs, provides excellent exercise programs, dividing them into beginner, intermediate, and advanced formats.

The exercises are easy to follow and should produce positive results. However, the order in which the information is laid out is slightly confusing. Bohme describes the exercises’ usefulness in everyday life after the exercise chapter, and then includes exercise safety tips in an appendix. Readers should be advised to read the whole book before beginning one of the programs.

The sections on osteoporosis itself have a tendency to read like a medical text. The first chapter, “Understanding Osteoporosis,” begins with the description, “Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterized by a low bone mass and micro-architectural deterioration of the bone with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture.” These chapters do contain easy-to-read summaries, informational charts, and sidebars, but one wishes the authors had better integrated the material.