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Just Desserts

© 2012 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

From my point of view, we are on the cusp of a major advance forward in nutrition as seen in the public sphere. Hostess Baked Goods may decide to completely liquidate. Yes, you heard me – Twinkies and Wonder Bread may disappear into brand oblivion. Please give me a moment while I do the same goofy dance I did when I heard about New York Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to fight for, pass and enforce a city ordinance banning sugary drinks over 16 ounces.

In neither case can I even pretend to be objective about my opposition to people who make money selling sugar, even in the face of mounting evidence that sugar will make you fat, clog your arteries and give you diabetes. If a car company knowingly sells a defective vehicle, I might say nice things about the company if they fix the car and pay out the damages that they honestly owe in order that a company that employs many people doesn’t go splat on the kitchen floor. I can’t do this for any sugar merchant; your products hurt people with no discernable upside, so get used to oblivion and/or increased regulatory scrutiny that artfully treads the line between corporate and personal responsibility.

Yes, the consumer really must take responsibility for what goes into their mouths, but at some point companies like Hostess must show the same corporate responsibility forced upon the cigarette companies by a landmark class action suit that perhaps if the products kill people then it isn’t good to sell them. Ironically, current anti-tobacco ads depict tobacco as killing a third of its customers in any given year mostly with the effects of long term usage catching up to the unfortunate. But, I maintain that Big Sugar kills nearly as many of its customers with the effects of sugar lurking to shorten lifespans. Except for the few at the cutting edge, we didn’t know about sugar in 1950 so you can make an excuse then, but we can’t make that excuse now. We need to see the same types of ads dealing with Big Sugar’s death rate, but…

Hostess is teetering on the brink of insolvency because of a vicious labor dispute. I must admit a lifelong general support for organized labor as defending workers from management who want to grind wages, conditions and benefits in their favor. I had always assumed that if both parties acted as rationally as possible in their own best interests and weren’t interested in going nuclear then both sides would compromise so that everyone gets their half-loaf victory. And sometimes, I’m said to say, workers do have to take a pay cut, especially if they are already well paid under previous union deals to keep the company competitive. I have no idea if this concept applies to Hostess.

The greatest irony during the countdown to the November 16, 2012 decision to liquidate the whole company to avoid the wage concessions is that ultimately both sides want to win in the game of chicken so that the company will continue to sell sugar to the public. The bakery unions want their higher wages and benefits so that they can feel valued for their work and get paid appropriately. The company wants more profit. However, this means that nutritionally speaking both sides earn the nastiest words my ghostwriter can think up to put ink to paper. Obviously, unlike for companies that sell a better class of products, I’m hoping that both sides will demonstrate the most arrogant intransigence forcing Hostess to implode in a puff of smoke.

Will we see less Twinkies or Wonder Bread bleached so white it really shouldn’t even be called bread? Probably not. It is still my job as a health researcher to keep publicizing why many aspects of our modern diet are bad for all of us. If a market still exists for the Twinkie, Ding Dong and Ho-Ho after the liquidation decision then Hostess can simply sell the brands and recipes to another company with a different labor agreement and the dance begins again. But, if we start getting our sugar from natural sources like whole fruits and vegetables and buy less sweets, maybe we’ll see the previously impossible: a failed sugary food company.

There is some hope that may happen. Buried in the articles explaining why labor and management are seemingly even more bitterly divided than Republicans and Democrats was this statement that sales of Hostess products are on a slow decline in part due to people making healthier eating choices. Imagine that.

I Told You So

© 2012 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

If you have been watching the news recently, you’ll understand if I take a moment to enjoy that the tide may be turning on sugar. Perhaps, I should pull a Sally Field Oscar Speech and thank everybody on the planet, including CBS News. Okay, I’m fine now.

The magazine show 60 Minutes recently ran a story mostly based on Dr. Robert Lustig and his YouTube video that represented the opening broadside against refined sugar in general and fructose specifically. Dr. Lustig took the position that sugar is toxic and should be regulated the way nicotine and narcotics are regulated. Sign me up. Oh, that’s right, I already did and I told you so.

I have minor differences with Dr. Lustig that won’t affect the basic program of getting off sugar. Where he says fructose, whether bound as half the sucrose molecule or served up straight as High Fructose Corn Syrup, causes all the damage, I say to include excessive glucose in the regime. No one will get healthy replacing excessive fructose with even more glucose. Part of the diabetes/heart disease/hypertension disease cycle is simply run on too much sugar, whatever the type.

In short order, the show hit the high points of cancer, obesity, and heart disease and linked sugar to all of these diseases. The sugar spokesman tried to say Americans just need to exercise more to counteract the sugar, which flies in the face of our common experience that says many of us did exercise more and still got fat. However, many sugar addicts report that excessive sugar makes them mentally unready to exercise, making us even fatter. Lastly, the piece covered sugar’s addictive properties using the same stark terms as with cocaine or heroin. Again, I told you so.

My one quibble with the piece is that either because of time, professional timidity, or lack of research before air is that the producers only covered the high points of degenerative disease. My I told you so includes a lot more diseases than obesity, heart disease, cancer and addiction. I would’ve liked someone to explain the Mineral Wheel describing how the nutrients we take relate to each other and how sugar upsets the apple cart.

Sugar makes the body highly acidic causing the body to pull calcium out of the bones to act as a base to remain in homeostasis. In one fell swoop, I have just linked osteoporosis to sugar because what else is calcium taken out of the bones? But, I have also continuously asserted mineral relationships (calcium meets up with phosphorous just so and so on) as an indicator of the health of the body’s various hormone-based systems, which includes digestion and the immune system among others. If a person doesn’t fully digest food and can’t fight off a cold, can you think up a host of other medical problems to afflict us because of sugar?

I can. I did. And then I listed them. The only things in human medicine that sugar doesn’t seem to directly affect are accidents and other mayhem. Though, less sugar can help you recover faster.

Lastly, I would like to mention that CBS News and other outlets have also reported on the latest research from Harvard University that sugar adds a 20-percent risk of heart attack among men that drink one sugary drink per day. The tide is turning. Cities begin to ban sugary drinks from public vending machines. We begin to understand just how dangerous sugar is and I told you so.

Paula Deen Follies

© 2012 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

 I’m not sure how to react to celebrity chef Paula Deen’s delayed announcement of contracting diabetes. Do I give full vent to the same schadenfreude as when I learned that many tobacco executives die of lung cancer? I don’t think I can pull off kicking that woman when she’s down with a straight face.

Ms. Deen bakes with sugar on the Food Network. We would seem to be natural enemies; the sugar lady with a signature recipe for Key Lime Pie vs. the anti-sugar lady who had to stop baking her mother’s recipe for Christmas coffee cake. If you’d ever tasted that coffee cake, you’d understand and forgive if I might be a little snotty about other people’s enjoyment of sugar. Truthfully, sometimes I’m exactly that person.

Ms. Deen even before her announcement had always hedged her bets telling her audience to practice moderation. I wonder if moderation can be taught by people who don’t look like they walk it like they talk it. I have never expected total abstinence and a life without a little chocolate or Key Lime Pie in it makes you extremely boring. So does this make her the food TV equivalent of a professional football player willing to spend the rest of her life in extreme pain in return for fifteen years of gridiron glory as an example for the rest of us? She doesn’t score touchdowns or do funny endzone dances, so I don’t think her fans will give her the same free pass for the apparent stupidity of wrecking your body for other people’s entertainment.

As soon as she let her diagnosis of Type-2 diabetes into our collective headspace, the media wolf pack circled for the kill. Some reports went right at the “southern comfort food” on Ms. Deen’s show enjoying with straight up vicious glee the irony that a chef promoting a diet rich in butter and sugar would suddenly contract diabetes, an apparent poetic justice. Fellow celebrity chef/travel host Anthony Bourdain weighed in calling her “the most dangerous woman in America.” Well, maybe she could be if a person actually ate her dishes at the rate at which Ms. Deen presents them on her show.

News shows found pictures of Ms. Deen posed with stacks of butter and suddenly scrutinized every meal. Oooooooooooh! She had a cheeseburger and fries! I’m not going to defend that plate as healthy, but no one eats perfectly. I still occasionally bust out the real whipped cream for the once a year pumpkin pie. I pay for it a few days later and go back to my normal regimen. I suppose this sort of thing could be what Ms. Deen meant by moderation, striking a balance between her Key Lime Pie and living long enough to enjoy the experience.

It wasn’t just the media having fun with apparent hypocrisy, but the announcement also included an agreement with a drug company to sell their top shelf diabetes drug. The jackals closed in all over again because we hate corporations and the very thought that a celebrity would sell out on a medical condition for money. At least, we know her maintenance care will be essentially free.

The coverage did also need more balance concerning the health advice for diabetes patients as butter’s being bad for people is under debate. Some (like the Atkins Diet and me) say naturally occurring dairy fat with limited lactose so eat responsibly because there are no substitutes, except that comes from a chemistry lab. Others (American Diabetes Association) say No Never. Even so that stack of butter sticks made for a great photo with which to smack around a celebrity. I suppose it’s now time for all of us to be distracted by the next dress to walk down the runway.

© 2012 Nancy Appleton PhD and G.N. Jacobs

 Those of you that may have already read our book Killer Colas may remember that we asserted that drinking soda is much like drinking battery acid. You may also remember that we tried several times to replicate a demonstration from Mr. Jacobs’ youth where freshly pulled teeth from a nearby dentist where the teeth dissolved in Coke within about a week and a half or thereabouts. Suffice it to say the teeth didn’t dissolve and we gave up.

In the book, we did present rumors and other assertions from news that the phosphoric acid in most soda brands could be used for all kinds of non-drinking uses like degreasing engine blocks and in one case from India was an amazingly effective pesticide. But, we had to pass these reports on as less than fully confirmed because the articles we based them on were either not found in the mountain of research material used for the book or came from dubious sources. Now we have lawyers and experts from Pepsi on record about the acidity of at least one soda: Mountain Dew.

In 2009, an Illinois man bought a soda at the local convenience store. He pops the top and finds a mouse in the can. After experiencing what might have been an entertaining Ick Dance (at least to the disinterested who got unadulterated sodas), the gentlemen in question performs as expected of the average American and sues everybody even remotely related to this disgusting experience, including Pepsi.

Part of the suit alleges that the soda company willfully took the mouse for testing it and then not returning the carcass to the plaintiff in a condition unusable for court or independent testing. So far this sounds like the normal sort of skullduggery that goes on every day when these kinds of lawsuits finally make it onto the schedule. Maybe Pepsi destroyed the evidence. Maybe the plaintiff is sweetening his case with an exaggeration. The jury will split the baby as the saying goes. Currently, the case is at an advanced pretrial stage discussing last minute motions and such.

But, what is really interesting from the point of view of health writers is what Pepsi’s people just recently said trying not to give the plaintiff money, whether the $325,000 filed against Pepsi, the convenience store and store employees, or the reported $50,000 still on the table after the plaintiff’s lawyers clearly advised him to keep his eyes on the prize: Pepsico’s deep pockets. The defense strategy: the plaintiff could not have encountered the alleged dead rodent because the acid in the soda would have dissolved the body in the time between bottling and sale.

Apparently, the can was bottled in 2008 and sold in November 2009 according to court documents. Pepsi’s expert testified that the mouse would not have been found in the solid state with soft tissue intact because the year interval would have turned the mouse into a “jelly-like substance.” No assertions in court documents were made to assert tampering after being bottled. Also, no mention was made if said jelly would have still made for an unpleasant drinking experience worthy of earning a settlement.

You heard it here, there and maybe everywhere that the acid in soda is one of many reasons to stop drinking soda. Though we must admit that the possibility that on a particular production day in 2008 a dead mouse escaped both the Pepsico and the local government health inspection processes ranks almost as high.

New Years Resolutions

© 2011 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs

Resolutions, we’ve all made them. Usually, they last two weeks. So how do we give ourselves the best chance of meeting the next batch due in just a few weeks?

Perhaps the problem is that we attach too much to New Years as a time of new beginnings. We get too worked up over the change in calendar, which could put so much pressure on “I resolve to eat better and exercise” or “I resolve to read more books.” The pressure can cause us to freeze up and fail the resolution.

One possible way to give yourself a chance is to shift the New Years metaphor to some other date. Start the regimen in March quietly and without fanfare and maybe you’ll last long enough to change a few bad habits. My son, a writer, for the past two Novembers has tried to write a 50 thousand word novel in thirty days. He got close both times glad to take a half-loaf victory until he came across a suggestion to shift adherence to the challenge to August from another writer. Apparently, this writer admitted he enjoyed the fall TV schedule too much.

But, deferring the promise to yourself until an easier time with less pressure may not be enough to make things work. Some of us still need to figure out a way to eat less sugar and exercise more, right now. In almost no cases do I recommend anything like going cold turkey when it comes to such difficult things as cutting down on sugar, losing weight or becoming healthier. Few people can just quit sugar or any of the other harmful addictive foods in their diet. This is how New Years resolutions crash and burn.

My favorite trick is the half as much as yesterday approach, which I first discussed in my first book Lick the Sugar Habit. Take stock of your sugar intake today and then eat half as much tomorrow. Repeat the process the day after that. In a purely, mathematical sense using half as much sugar means you’d never completely cut out sugar. But, in the real world there is a fuzziness in measurement that means eventually within a week or so you’ll be eating so little sugar that making the last jump to eating no sugar becomes easier.

I used a similar technique when I first got my kids off sugar. Many years ago we were traveling in England and I told them they could have one sugar filled item per day. Of course, I’d already dumped the cakes and colas that were waiting for us at home. My children went with the new regime without complaint and three weeks later we came home to house where the only sugar my kids ate came from outside the house.

Lastly, it is real important to seek help from other people trying to deal with your resolutions. When all else fails talking to other people with the same concerns can help when making major life changes. This is how Alcoholics Anonymous and other support groups work. People contemplating that piece of cheesecake can sometimes only be talked down by a friend. In my area of expertise, nutrition, I’ve dealt with many support groups that can help people from eating too much. My favorite is Food Addicts in Recovery because they seem to specialize in sugar addiction, but I’ve seen equally good results from Overeaters Anonymous and Food Addicts Anonymous. I don’t have as much experience with the for profit weight loss programs like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, but I support anything that comes with a support system.

A person with the right plan and support can do anything, so whether waiting for an off month to start, using some variation of the half as much plan or reaching out for the right help any reasonable resolution is achievable. Do your best.


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