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The Composition of Foods - McCance and Widdowson ***

I find this book hypnotically wonderful. The fact that it has three stars reflects the fact it is a book that is only going to interest specialists - and the £50+ price tag underlines this. However what you've got here is a reference that well tell you how much water and fats and sugars and nutrients you'll find in anything from a kebab (really) to an aubergine. For instance, need to know how much phosphorous there is in a creme caramel*? It's 77mg. Ask me another.

Clearly this is going to make anyone who buys a copy a surefire success at dinner parties. But more to the point it is hugely valuable if you have a professional interest in nutrition. The nutritionist's bible, you might say. Sugar in a raw onion? It's 6.2 grams. And I can, of course, give it to you broken down by sugar type, if you prefer.

Aside from its value as a reference (and as a doorstop at a chunky 630 pages), it's also something of a curiosity in that both the apparent authors are dead, which I guess is why it is 'McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods' rather than The Composition of Foods by McCance and Widdowson. Their demise was not recent, either. They died in 1993 and 2000 respectively - but the title recognises their contribution.

So not one for everyone's shelf. But if it's right for you - and you know who you are - it's well worth it.

* Yes, I know all creme caramels are not the same. A typical creme caramel.
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Review by Brian Clegg

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