Book Review by Sapphire Ng
The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food, and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection
by Scott C. Anderson, John F. Cryan, Ted Dinan
Copyright November 2017
Hardcover, 320 Pages
A composite of the academic and general reading, this book consists of a biological conversation sprouting into realms of disease, medicine, and psychiatry. Technicality, in the form of biology terms and jargon, was presented in a writing style defined by metaphorical flourishes clearly intended to make the content of the book more engaging and accessible to the general reader, and even potentially more tolerable for the science- or biology-averse reader.
This book appeared well-researched and properly structured, with intriguing premises, and claims that sometimes went into the realm of the jaw-dropping and potentially unbelievable. The book undoubtedly contained an abundance of information, facts and research used to formulate the discussion of the predominant subject matter of psychobiotics. Not all chapters in the book however were personally compelling to me, and I found myself skimming through segments of the book that delved into extensive technical detail in the realm of biology.
I enjoyed most the parts of the book which addressed one of the central premises proffered by the authors—the significance of the scientific psychobiotic conversation to the field of psychiatry and mental illnesses. I also appreciated the research cited by the authors which formed part of the discussion in prepping the topic of mental illnesses for its relation to the world of psychobiotics.
I consider the chapter “Your Personal Psychobiotic Journey” to be one of the more directly useful chapters for general readers, for reasons implied by the title of the chapter itself. The information presented in the form of practical and rather educational guidance is invaluable; the sections covering the range of the different brands of probiotics and the different microbial species can conceivably serve as a handy reference for readers. I liked especially as well the notion of the visual “psychobiotic pyramid” that the authors presented which was modeled after the food pyramid. I also found the dietary recommendations found in the chapter to be personally relevant.
The coverage of biology in certain junctures of the book complete with highly technical details and terms, and labeled diagrams customarily found in biology textbooks was unfortunately somewhat of a turn-off for me, despite the accompanying discourse which was more metaphorical and vibrant, and less detached. I lack a particular fondness for the academic study of biology, and opted to review the book largely expecting the book to cater more to the general reader who might lead incredibly busy lives and who might have hoped to pick up immediately practicable information in which to achieve better health, physical and psychological.
This certainly didn’t preclude the fact that the book introduced certain biological scientific ideas that truly intrigued me and I daresay expanded my knowledge base, such as the notion of “fecal transplant,” its medical applications, and its execution in scientific experiments. The book also contained a healthy serving of claims supposedly based on scientific theory that were memorable and which really captured my attention as a reader; claims such as “only one percent of your genes are human,” or that “a microbe of the genus Toxoplasma can make mice become aroused by cat pee.”
Other times, I felt positively amused when I came across statements as such in the book, “Believe it or not, coprophagia, or poop eating, has a long history in human medicine.” Sometimes I relished in discovering that “as well as bacteria, [my] insides are full of fungi and viruses and even a few protozoans swimming about,” and that I “likely have a thousand different species of bacteria living in and on [me] right now.”
The range of content areas covered by the book made it such that even if the reader might not enjoy the entirety of the contents of the book, he or she will still highly likely find something of interest within the pages of the book. The chapter of the book for example that addressed the more intimate connection between psychobiotics to a great range of diseases and afflictions might find an empathetic audience in many readers.
And if the notion of perusing a book more than occasionally filled with moderately dense content related to biology, medicine and disease doesn’t seem daunting, even as a relaxing weekend read, and if it seemed rather reasonable that the authors might leap straight into referring to certain diseases by their acronyms in a way which clearly assume prior knowledge, you might well be the ideal reader sought after to embark on the journey this book offers to discover the world of psychobiotics.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from National Geographic and TLC Book Tours for this review.