Gulp: book review

gulp

Gulp. by Mary Roach. Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company (2013). Nonfiction. Hardcover. 336 pages. ISBN 9780393081572

After reading Stiff, I’ve not been all that enthralled by Roach’s books. However, the subject matter and cover of Gulp enticed me. Maybe I knew a lot about the subject matter or wanted more focus on human elements than information about animals, criminals and flatulence. The cover says “adventures on the alimentary canal.” I honestly was looking forward to a trip along the alimentary canal. She started out fairly strong with the importance of smell and taste but then she wanders off to cover other life forms that seem off-topic to comprehending the human body. But then again, that’s the Roach m.o. She intends to find the strangest material possible to share with her readers under a broad umbrella “topic.” And that means it’s not always the most useful information. This isn’t the first time I’ve been disappointed by Roach. BONK turned out to be a dull exploration on sex. Roach tried way too hard to be scintillating and shocking. It just wasn’t. She’s a thorough researcher but wanders too much and needs to rein in a bit when it’s time to write.

A few tidbits:

Eighty to ninety percent of the sensory experience of eating is olfactory.

We process visual input ten times faster than olfactory.

Humans have taste receptor cells in the gut, the voice box, the upper esophagus, but only the tongue’s receptors report to the brain.

Intestinal taste receptors are thought to trigger hormonal responses to molecules, such as salt and sugar, and defensive reactions—vomiting, diarrhea—to dangerous bitter items.

Vinegar, cola, citrus juice, wine, all are in the acid range of the pH scale: from around PH 2 to 3. Anything under pH 4 will dissolve calcium phosphate, a key component of tooth enamel. The process is called de-mineralization.

“Immature swallowing coordination” is the reason 90 percent of food-related choking deaths befall children under the age of five. Also contributing: immature dentition. Kids grown incisors before they have molars; for a brief span of time they can bite off piece of food but cannot chew them.

Well over thousand pounds of tobacco and hundreds of cell phones are rectally smuggled into California state prisons each year.

RATING: **

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from W.W. Norton.

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