Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us

Dutton. Apr. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9781524744274. $27. SCI
Does sunscreen really prevent skin cancer? How bad is processed food? Chemist Zaidan (cohost of CNBC’s Make Me a Millionaire Inventor and host of National Geographic’s web series Ingredients) unpacks the science behind these questions and many others. A skilled science communicator, Zaidan presents his findings with humor and accessible language. He references countless scientific studies and in the process elucidates the fallibility of said studies owing to pitfalls such as p-hacking (manipulating data to achieve a desired result) and poor study design, among other topics. Zaidan’s work will be illuminating for those who warily approach ever-changing health declarations that claim to provide the elixir to achieving a long life. Despite Zaidan’s skepticism, he still has confidence in science, “not because it’s perfect, but because you can find the imperfections and judge them for yourself.” While Zaidan doesn’t provide definitive answers as to how much coffee to drink or what type (if any) sunscreen to use, he does suggest not worrying so much about having all the answers.
VERDICT An entertaining romp through the world of scientific studies focusing on topics that will concern most readers. Recommended for all curious about the everyday products they consume or use.

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