Hormones: A Very Short Introduction

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Oxford University Press, 2014 - Science - 136 pages
Hormones play an integral part in the balance and workings of the body. While many people are broadly aware of their existence, there are many misconceptions and few are aware of the nature and importance of the endocrine system.

In this Very Short Introduction, Martin Luck explains what hormones are, what they do, where they come from, and how they work. He explains how the endocrine system operates, highlighting the importance of hormones in the regulation of water and salt in the body, how they affect reproduction and our appetites, and how they help us adjust to different environments, such as travel across time zones.

In this fresh and modern treatment, Luck also touches on the ethical and moral issues surrounding research methods, testing on animals, and hormone misuse.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
 

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In popular culture hormones are considered chemicals that cause a lot of disruptive or unwanted behaviors: from a teenager’s acting out, to rampant promiscuity, to drug abuse in professional sports. In this view hormones are thought as something of an “add on” to your normal bodily homeostasis. However, hormones are an essential part of our biological makeup, and without them we simply couldn’t function. They are the overarching “signaling” chemicals, generally secreted in one part of the body and carried by the bloodstream to the other parts.
This is a very well written and thorough book on hormones. It gives a short historical account of their discovery and the evolution of our understanding of these important substances. The book covers the biochemistry of hormones, and the physiology of their secretion and action. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of the book deals with human hormones and the associated physiological conditions that accompany them.
The book gave me a new appreciation of the incredibly subtle and complex role that hormones play in our bodies. It also managed to dispel certain myths that I’ve had about hormones. (For instance, both testosterone and estrogen are present in both sexes. They are not THE sex hormones as conventionally understood.) I also learned how much interaction there is between different hormones, and that this is still an area that is not completely well understood, where a lot of current research is going on.
As an aside, just like with any other book written for the general audience that contains “medical” information, there is a danger that a fair number of readers of this book may be tempted to self-diagnose after reading it. Don’t. You will most likely misdiagnose yourself, and make yourself unnecessarily worried. If you suspect that you might have a medical condition that could possibly be related to hormonal imbalances, you should consult your doctor.
Overall, this is a pretty good book that taught me a lot of new things about hormones and human physiology in general. Highly recommended.
 

Contents

Hormones history and the shoulders of giants
1
How hormones work
16
The mysteries of reproduction
34
Water salt and blood pressure
53
The hard stuff calcium cells bones and cancer
63
Appetite fat and obesity
74
The thyroid gland
88
Light and dark
97
Changing perspectives
110
Further reading
126
Index
131
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About the author (2014)


Martin Luck is based at the University of Nottingham as an Associate Professor of Animal Sciences. He is the author of two previous books. He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy in 2011.

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