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Archive for January, 2012

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.

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© 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.

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