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Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings

3.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  309 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
Why is eating chocolate so pleasurable? Can the function of just one small group of chemicals really determine whether you are happy or sad? Does marijuana help to improve your memory in old age? Is it really best to drink coffee if you want to wake up and be alert? Why is a drug like PCP potentially lethal? Why does drinking alcohol make you drowsy? Do cigarettes help to ...more
Hardcover, 179 pages
Published July 30th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published July 1st 2010)
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হাঁটুপানির জলদস্যু
সহজ ভঙগি ও ভাষায় মসতিষকের ওপর কিছু রাসায়নিকের পরভাব নিয়ে লেখা বই। খাবার আর মাদকের মধযে সীমারেখাটা যে কতো পলকা, সেটা খুব সপষটভাবে বোঝা যায়। বইতে বযবহৃত আখযানগুলোও দারুণ। দুধের শিশু যে নেশাগরসত হয়েই বার বার দুধ খেতে চায়, আগে জানতাম না। ...more
Jan 03, 2011 Natalie rated it it was ok
This book was not quite what I expected it to be. There wasn't actually much going on in the book concerning FOOD and how it controls your thoughts and feelings. I thought the neuroscience aspect of the book would have been a bit more in depth, but no. However, there was a section concerning psychedelic mushrooms, urine drinking and vikings that proved mildly interesting, not something I intend to try personally, but entertaining all the same.
Jul 07, 2012 Peg rated it really liked it
Actually I was hoping for more on how actual food effects my thoughts and feelings. Most of the chemicals he talked about were drugs of some sort, both legal and illegal. The stuff on coffee and chocolate were especially confirming! The author is a neuologist and the book is very interesting. He infuses his information with humor, some of it very subtle, so that makes it fun. IT's a pretty quick read.
Mar 08, 2012 Deb rated it really liked it
*Unexpected but worthwhile*

While reading this book, I felt like I was a student who signed up for a class called "Your Brain on Food" but instead was somehow switched into one called "Your Brain on Drugs." Not that this was a undesirable switch...just an unexpected one.

And, it's no coincidence that I felt like I was in class while reading this book--the author is, after all, a college professor. The book's presentation, style, and content are rather lecture-like, but, nonetheless effectively ac
Jul 05, 2012 Hjsmith79 rated it really liked it
There's very little attention paid to actual food and its effect on the brain. Instead, the title would best be changed to "Neurotransmitters Make Us Kooky". That aside, it's a great guide to how neuropeptides control our thinking, movement, mood, awareness and sometimes out personality.
Did you know that the Magi's gifts to Mary, frankincense and myrrh, were not only exotic, fancy-sounding substances one only mentions at Christmas, but both are fairly potent analgesics? Or that our brains manufa
Matt Holmes
Jan 04, 2015 Matt Holmes rated it it was amazing
As a weightlifter, drug enthusiast, and psych nerd, this book was everything I could've asked for. I got through it in Barnes and Noble in an hour. It's nice to get some concise, scientifically supported answers to those old myth questions about coffee's benefit/harm ratio, or some stripped down non-propagandist perspectives on marijuana's neurological usefulness (or lack thereof). The insulin/leptin cycle bit was especially interesting, since I played around with intermittent fasting for a few ...more
Aug 31, 2013 Melanie rated it it was ok
This may be one of the most misleading book titles I've ever encountered. In the entire book, there are maybe a handful of sentences actually discussing food. Presumably "Your Brain on Drugs" was already claimed by those PSAs, but that would be the far more accurate title for the book. The vast majority of it discusses the effects of various drugs on the brain, particularly with regards to neurotransmitters. Additionally, the author doesn't seem entirely sure of who his audience is. The books is ...more
Sep 28, 2010 Heather rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anni
Shelves: nonfiction
The title and the cover are completely misleading. Pretty much the only thing about foods (with the exception of coffee and chocolate) the author said was that the amounts of certain chemicals are not enough to produce significant effects, if any.

That said, I did learn a few things about how different drugs effect the brain. For instance, I never knew why so many medications prohibit you from drinking alcohol (it multiplies the effects and can be fatal). I also learned why teenagers are so wreck
I absolutely LOVED this book. I was for a very long time looking for some source that could explain to me in plain English what the h*ck happens in the brain when chemicals hit it, and this one did exactly that. Moreover, it went from food to hard drugs in a few pages, and I loved it. I will definitely read it a second time, and I have all its suggested readings in my queue now, because it is such a great and elegant explanation. I will very happily read other books and papers written by this sa ...more
Alison Raman
Although an interesting read, I was disappointed by Wenk's lack of depth throughout the book, overgeneralization, and all too frequent use of "correlation" or "may correlate." As correlation does not equal causation, I believe he misleads readers into the cause and effect of what we ingest and how it *might* affect our brains. Similarly, he repeatedly uses "recent study" and goes on to describe how said study demonstrated a particular effect, but the precise study is not referenced anywhere in t ...more
Katie Kemple
Aug 26, 2015 Katie Kemple rated it it was ok
I heard Gary Wenk discuss this book on a podcast and was instantly drawn in. The book itself, unfortunately, was not as interesting as his interview. This may have to do with his definition of food, which expands to include anything one consumes. Mainly, in the case of this book, those substances are illegal drugs. Don't buy this book if you're looking for insight into how everyday food affects the brain, memory, or longevity. His audience seems to be his college students, who experiment - and a ...more
Terry Bourbon
Mar 13, 2016 Terry Bourbon rated it liked it
Well, this was TOTALLY not what I was expecting. I was sort of hoping for a science meets kitchen type of book, and there is no kitchen component here whatever, despite the lovely broccoli graphic. There is however lots of helpful science on acetylcholine and dopamine and brain chemistry and why it works. It is interesting, and I found myself going, "Huh, wow, that's interesting." So if you want kind of a layman's guide to brain chemistry and why it works (including tidbits on marijuana, morphin ...more
Apr 19, 2016 Seamusin rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Solid little entertaining introduction to neuroscience and the effect of drugs no the brain. He throws in a little history, a little literature references (e.g. the drug Hamlet takes), and also is a little informally funny here and there; it's not too dry. It is indeed a misleading title as pretty much every review stresses; it focuses on drugs, and barely mentions food - though Wenk suggests the two overlap more than we think. To get the most out of the book, a little knowledge of the brain and ...more
Apr 14, 2016 Tutankhamun18 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed chapters 1-5 and 9 and 10, but felt that the other chapters were more about drugs than about food, which to be fair is what Wenk said he would do in his intro (nutrients and drugs), but nevertheless was not as interesting to me. Also his students seem to have taken any and every concoction of drugs available, which he boast frequenlt sounding almost proud... His explanatory power while maintaining a casual tone however, is excellent. Watch his ted talk!
Peter Aronson
Mar 11, 2016 Peter Aronson rated it really liked it
While the title is a bit misleading, this is a nice introduction to many of the various neurotransmitters in the human brain and body and some of their effects, and the effects on them of various drugs (and food, but actually food, while it can affect neurotransmitters, doesn't generally have that strong effect on them). A very readable treatment. (Although the stuff about caloric restriction at the end is mostly considered debunked today.)
Jun 24, 2014 Jonathan rated it liked it
Lots of good information, though more technical than I expected... Had I not been stuck on a 5 hour flight, I probably wouldn't have finished it, but the info in it was great, and I'm glad that I did finish.
Vladimir Chupakhin
Mar 30, 2014 Vladimir Chupakhin rated it it was ok
Title is misleading, there is very very little about actual influence of nutrients on brain functions. Thou I should admit that the description of main brain neurotransmitters are very good.
Patrick Barker
Mar 04, 2014 Patrick Barker rated it liked it
Decent book, there were definitely some interesting parts, but I felt that nothing incredibly interesting was imparted to me. It was more just an affirmation of the status quo.
Jul 20, 2015 Sofia rated it really liked it
An accessible read that explains how the human brain works and how a wide variety of chemicals (not just food) affect various parts of brain function.
Dec 28, 2011 Natasha rated it liked it
This is an excellent primer on neurobiology, but it actually has very little to do with food. It describes the role of various neurotransmitters, and explains the effects of increasing or blocking these neurotransmitters with legal and non-legal pharmaceuticals. The only mention of anything food-like was alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and ginkgo. So, while interesting, I am not sure why the author titled it "Your Brain on FOOD" He should have just gone with the subtitle- "How Chemicals Influence Y ...more
May 06, 2012 hannah added it
Shelves: science
The title of this book is an extreme misnomer, but its subtitle is right on track. While not the most exciting way to approach the subject, and while Wenk is far from the most engaging science (or any) writer I've ever read, this is still a rather accessible book about how the neurotransmitters in your brain work with or against or in spite of various chemicals, from nutrients to drugs, that you consume. It's also the first time I've really understood action potentials, after feeling like they w ...more
Mar 21, 2015 Steph rated it liked it
Mostly about how chemicals in our brain react to the chemicals we consume. By "chemicals" I mean "drugs". Interesting, nonetheless.
Any Length
Mar 20, 2014 Any Length rated it really liked it
The book is great in that it explains how the brain works with the various neurotransmitters and with the substances we put into our bodies. However, it discusses "food" as such only in the end chapter and only as an aside, thus the title is somewhat misleading. However, I think the book has great use to give to anyone who is smoking, taking drugs, eating magic mushrooms, or thinks that brain training or excessive dietary supplements are of any great use. I would recommend this book and found it ...more
Sep 09, 2012 Helen rated it it was ok
The blurb that lures you into reading the book promises that it will tell you about how FOOD interacts with your body and brain to affect your feelings and thoughts. It does not.
It does give a good basic grounding in what different neurotransmitters do, and how the science folks now believe they affect your moods and even your thought processes. However, it doesn't actually talk about food. Unless, of course, we've redefined the word to include the various drugs that are currently prescribed to
Mar 20, 2014 Meghan rated it liked it
The title was misleading. This book was concerned primarily with the brain on drugs and consumable plants not really "on food" in terms of nutrition or diet which was what I was expecting. Interesting though.
Dec 04, 2011 Sarah added it
Very succinct basic overview...absolutely gives no hope about being able to beef up a slowly ebbing ability to remember anything. Eat less and exercise is the take away. Snake oil is still snake oil. Does give a nice overview of drug mechanisms and neurotransmitter systems if you need that. Its strength is that it doesn't try to do too much-pretty focused and has a decent suggested reading list that is pertinent to that focus.
Mar 04, 2011 Lori rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Not at all what I was expecting. Total bait and switch, the title sounded so good! I'll admit I didn't finish it. It just didn't seem worth the time. It's not written for a public audience, and talks very little about food. Mostly it focuses about drugs and specific chemicals. It's fairly technical and not the kind of thing you could just read through because it looks interesting.
Mar 29, 2012 Carrie rated it did not like it
Shelves: misc-non-fiction
Wow, I really don't know why they put "Food" in the title. This book is about how chemicals affect the brain...there isn't anything in here about food at all except for a few pages about glucose. Mostly it discusses how various drugs (e.g., cocaine, marijuana, etc.) affect the brain. It was interesting and well-written, but it is not what I had anticipated at ALL.
Jun 06, 2015 Matas rated it really liked it
I think people get disappointed by the book only because they read the first part of the name "Your brain on food" and forget the "how chemicals control your thoughts and feelings". The book is mainly about the second part. It's not a light read, but its pretty informative and rewarding. You can find out many useful advances in the field.
Mar 25, 2012 Sondra rated it really liked it
I actually took a drugs and behavior class taught by Dr. Wenk, and this is a good outline for the things we learned. I thought it was interesting and it didn't really feel like a textbook as I was reading. The title is a little misleading maybe, but the topics it does cover are far more interesting than just food in my opinion.
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