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10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness
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10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  2,502 ratings  ·  301 reviews

You are just 10% human. For every one of the cells that make up the vessel that you call your body, there are nine impostor cells hitching a ride. You are not just flesh and blood, muscle and bone, brain and skin, but also bacteria and fungi. Over your lifetime, you will carry the equivalent weight of five African elephants in microbes. You are not an individual but a colo

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Harper (first published April 23rd 2015)
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Sandra YES! Should be required reading for all adults. Preferably before embarking on parenthood!
YES! Should be required reading for all adults. Preferably before embarking on parenthood!

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Start your review of 10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness
First, the title of the book is arguably misleading.

Yes, by cell numbers, we're 90 percent prokaryotes. But, by mass, we're 90 percent human. That's because, while prokaryotic cells have evolved in symbiosis with us and other eukaryotes and carry out certain specialized functions, eukaryotic cells can do so much more overall, in general.

OK, now to the specific main problem.

This book is largely, for the first 2/3, yet another in a plethora of "one solution" health care/health science books. Coll
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010s, dewey600s
Here's a quote from page 71, reflecting what I'm appreciating about the book :

"Backhed suggests that what we can extract from our food depends on what our microbial factory has been set up to expect. If our vegetarian were to abandon her stance and indulge in a hog roast, she would probably not have enough amino-acid-loving microbes to make the most of it. But a regular meat-eater would have a sizeable collection of suitable microbes, and would extract more calories from the hog roast than the v
What a fascinating read.
I'll try and be objective about this initially. This is a book that is written in a fairly scientific way. Despite that it is highly readable. The author - a biologist - starts by looking at the diseases that plagued mankind over a century ago. Diphtheria, polio and the like were successfully eradicated and that allowed a far longer lifespan for people in general. After that came the new "conditions" that we live with now. Diabetes, autoimmune issues, autism and other pro
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was not surprised to see all of the five star reviews for this book. As a person well versed in biology I was treated with a number of "A-ha" moments while reading this book. This book serves well in shining light on the paradigm shift that is taking place in the medical community. It should not be surprising that the resistance to this new information comes more from corporate motives than it does from advances in knowledge. I would recommend this book to anyone that would like to open their ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book!

I've been interested in gut microbes since first reading about them earlier last year, so I was very excited to see what this book had to say. And WOW, it did not disappoint! It was very interesting and informative...I learned a lot and I was very excited to see how much the medical and scientific community has learned in the last few years about microbes. It was also really terrifying and scary to read of the incidences of disease that seem beyond our control (au
Alex Givant
Excellent book about microbes and how they impact almost all areas of our live.
Oct 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book. I read another book, called Gut by Guilia Enders, earlier this year, which was a great intro to our digestive tract and microbes. This really piqued my interest in the microbial colony that lives in our large intestine. This book goes much further, looking not only at our microbes, but all the twenty first century diseases that appear to be linked to our microbial health. Autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, allergies, and MS, but also mental health conditions like ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
I think there might be some interesting stuff here, but so far it suffers from the "gee whiz/I'm going to tell you something so amazing" repetition for the first fifty pages. Along with way, way basic explanations of microbial communities on the human body, which may be interesting for folks with almost no background in reading about science.

Content interesting enough to keep me up late reading. The writing is competent, but doesn't shine.

Okay, she finally got to the good stuff: re: microbes and
Kristy Kitten
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Reading slumps are the worst, and despite this book giving me one, it's absolutely worth reading because it truly opened my eyes. I try not to be dramatic but I view everything differently now, no joke, and even my lifestyle is changing.

Even though this is so far from what I normally read, I would recommend this to everyone. This brings out the science nerd in me. Thank you, school, for making me pick this up.
Noah Goats
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
10% Human is written with luminous clarity, packed with provocative ideas, and loaded with fascinating facts (like the one in the title). This book has actually managed to change my view of myself, and how many books do that? I now see myself as not only a human being, but a vast habitat for billions of microbes, many of whom are my friends and allies.

Because this book is about microbes, Collen appears to view all health problems as nails to be driven in by a microbe hammer and she doesn’t alwa
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm already a bit of a microbiome fanboy but excellent books like this and will hopefully bring greater understanding of our symbiotic microbes into the mainstream.

This will be of the utmost interest to anyone trying to learn more about the cause and effect of 21st century disease epidemics affecting developed countries such as obesity, allergies, autism, diabetes, IBS, MS etc.

Solid science presented this clearly and engagingly will provide a nourishing a
Rachel Lewis
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding book that will make you think long and hard about the very important role our gut microbes play in our health and what personal steps you can take to improve your own microbiota, to become a healthier person. Brilliantly written, fascinating and an important contribution to popular science writing.
Brittany Jerlinga
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the most illuminating and interesting book I have read. This completely changed the way I view my diet, my health, and even how I teach biology to my students. Fascinating and highly recommended!
Ken Rideout
Sep 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I learned a lot from this book. Most interestingly, I can now picture the human body as a giant earthworm-like tube with more "surface" area on the inside (intestinal walls mostly) than on the outside. Also, the solid matter in poop is mostly dead bacterial cells - who knew? The titular claim of a 10 to 1 ratio for micro-organisms outnumbering our own cells was less spectacular for me as I had learned at some point to think of our modern cells as an amalgam of parasitic and symbiotic evolutionar ...more
Chelsea Lawson
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can’t remember when/where I was recommended this book, but I am SO glad I read it. After all these years of scientific discovery and research, there is still an overwhelming amount we don’t know about human (and animal) health. 10% Human gives an engaging synopsis of the latest research into a relatively new avenue of interest- the microbiome. That is, the mega metropolises of bacteria living inside us. Not quite the self, but “old friends” who have a symbiotic relationship with our minds and ...more
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Definitely longer than it needed to be, but really interesting. A lot of this just makes sense. Of course your diet affects your body in countless ways (like whether or not you have acne, and not in the sense that "greasy food = pimples"). As obvious as it may have seemed in hindsight though, I'm glad Collen was thorough in her research and explanations-- even if it they were too long at times.

A few takeaways:

- eat plants. specifically, get lots of fiber and eat prebiotic foods (raw garlic, leek
Wendi Lau
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book has a different premise from other microbiome books I have read because the author states upfront "You are just 10 per cent human." In so doing, her book discusses the power these microbes wield to affect our personality and health. It's not just the science or data of that microbial "weight", but also who is really in charge of who.

By feeding the more desirable microbes with more plants and fiber than the typical American is used to, we can positively nudge our physique, emotions, an
Douglas Larson
Very thoroughly researched and almost astonishing in the principles presented, author Collen discusses the microbial population of the human body. Our bodies consist of about 37 trillion cells, but that is only 10% of the organisms we carry around with us. The other 333 trillion are microbes, bacteria and some fungi, which are passengers and which directly contribute to our health. While we have known for some time that the gastro-intestinal flora are vital to our health Collen carefully explain ...more
Rick Wedgeworth
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, science-bio, have
A real eye-opener. I picked up the book initially because I have an interest in the human microbome and expected to pick up some tidbits on the topic.

This book is less about the microbes themselves and more about their impact on the human colony. What was most shocking to me was the evidence the author presented on the connections between modern culture, modern gut bacteria and modern diseases such as autism, diabetes, obesity, IBS, and several others.

An excellent science-based book written for
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everybody needs to read this book!! The author did an great job with her research but condensed it and wrote in a simple style that would make this book perfect for the general public to read as well. I appreciated that so many topics the were covered in this book, especially was fascinated by the relationship between the gut microbiome and autoimmune and mental health illness. This book just furthered my interest even more in this topic.
Nancy Dardarian
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This really is a mind blowing book. The unfolding story of the importance of our gut bacteria is just fascinating. So many things make sense now! Highly recommend this book for anyone interested in healthy living.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have stayed up far too late reading this fascinating book. My two takeaways appear to be that 1.) too much hygiene causes allergies among other things and 2.) "Eat More Plants"!!
this was one of the very few books I've seen actually worth staying up until 1 in the morning to finish reading.
Gary Raduns
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Collen makes an interesting case for the vital role of properly balanced microbes, particularly those in our gut, in preventing a host of diseases ranging from obesity to autism.
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a thought-provoking book about the relationship between our microbiome and our health, including auto-immune diseases and 21st century illnesses such as metabolic syndrome, autism and heart diseases.

In the book, Alanna Collen draws intriguing connections between the rise of antibiotic usage starting in the 1940s, and the rise of the obesity epidemic.

One of the most provocative things she shares is the hypothesis that obesity might be (partially) caused by an infection. Her two main argu
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Probably one of the most important books I've read in quite a while (along with Why We Sleep). The research around the importance of the microbiota is fascinating, and the changes our current lifestyles have on our microbes is worrying to say the least. I will be questioning all prescribed antibiotics for my family and me, considering probiotics when antibiotics are necessary, and increasing my fiber intake by eating more vegetables to help encourage the growth of the good microbe populations.

Shiela Rozich
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the late 1970’s, Covert Bailey’s “Fit Or Fat” opened my understanding of aerobic exercise and explained weight gain/loss and how our bodies worked this system. It was brilliant!!
This book, “10% Human” does the same in late 2010’s for health and why we are losing the battle to achieve it. After over 50 years of the best health care in history, not to mention spending increasingly larger portion of our economy and our attention to “HEALTH”, what are we doing wrong?
This book, written for the ge
Emma Moore
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and informative read. A lot of thought-provoking information about autoimmune diseases, IBS, obesity, autism, breast-feeding, and natural births. Enjoyed this thoroughly and would recommend to anyone that enjoys non-fiction and has an interest in health.
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There is so much in this book that I had no idea about!! I learned so much that I feel like more people should know about. Read this book guys! It's super informative and an easy read for a nonfiction book. ...more
Beth Butler
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book exploring many aspects of how the bacteria that lives in us effects our health. Very easy to read and understand. Perfect read for the science geek. Yay, science. Yay, bacteria.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
great book in which blasting western medical practices often using antibiotics to get quickie on curing even small cough..little do western medicine understand the intricacy of our human structure: active good germs...from our ancestors passed on to provide the most natural barrier against foreign germs...through natural born instead of C section...through mother's milk instead of fake baby powder formula...yes..a kid is born without allergy when around dogs and cats likewise for a Pakistan kid ...more
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Alanna Collen is a science writer, with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Imperial College London, and a PhD in evolutionary biology from University College London and the Zoological Society of London. She is a well-travelled zoologist, an expert in bat echolocation, and an accidental collector of tropical diseases.

During her scientific career, Alanna has written for the Sunday

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