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Monday, December 20, 2021

Review: Why Geese Don't Get Obese

 Why Geese Don't Get Obese is a book on the physiology of animals in comparison to our own, and how our lifestyle as well as our unique features make us susceptible to problems that other creatures don't. It contains many titbits that are really relevant to parents. For instance:

Large numbers of new fat cells are not created—that happens primarily in early life. But if there were twice as many fat cells around to begin with, there would be that many more fat cells with the capacity to become fatter. So, the idea goes, it is especially important not to overfeed young children and toddlers, because this is the time when they can still make additional adipocytes. Overeating, therefore, will cause growth of both the number and the size of fat cells. It is highly probable that overeating in newborns leads to adults with lots of extra adipocytes, just waiting for that next cupcake or scoop of ice cream. (page 28)

This partially explains why obesity runs in families. There are lots of fascinating sections about lung capacity, hormonal responses, and sweat, some of which I didn't know. For instance:

 Although perspiration on our upper lip may taste salty, it is actually less salty than our blood. The water in the perspiration comes from our internal stores of water. Thus, when we perspire heavily on a hot day, we lose both water and salt but proportionately more water than salt. (pg. 45)

The section on marine mammals is great. For instance, I did not know that seals expelled all residual air from their lungs before they dove, which is one reason they don't get decompression sickness by ascending rapidly. It turns out that lungs don't hold much more than about 2 minutes of air, which is insignificant for the length of dives the seals and otters do. Avoiding decompression illness is worth losing those two minutes. 

I enjoyed the book, even though it's short, and the epilogue is even more interesting, as it describes the experiment on geese which required putting them on a treadmill while measuring their oxygen intake.  The diagram is thoroughly entertaining and well worth the time to read. Recommended.

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