Hold the Salami, Meathead - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Hold the Salami, Meathead

When I was a youngster, we were told to eat three square meals a day. Red meat, rich in protein, was considered a staple of a well-balanced diet. 

So, most of us developed a taste, even a passion, for beef. Backyard barbecues became an American way of life. On summer weekends the rich aroma of thick steaks, and hamburgers, and chops of all kinds sizzling on Weber grills throughout the neighborhood was as familiar as the smell of freshly mowed grass. Yes, we were all true carnivores.

Now, the World Health Organization (WHO?) has announced that red meats and processed meats like bacon and salami are dangerous carcinogens that increase the risk of colorectal cancer. The WHO? report concludes that processed meats are as dangerous as cigarette smoke and diesel exhaust.

They say that there is a 17% increase in the risk of colorectal cancer for every 100 grams per day of red meat consumed and an 18% increase for every 50 grams daily of processed meat. Wow! What a reversal of medical opinion a few decades can bring.

Now, I’ve really tried to live a healthy lifestyle. I’ve disdained smoking all my life. Don’t want to die of asphyxiation from lung cancer. 

For the past few years I’ve been lathering my body with maximum protection SPF 85 sun block to shelter my skin from that sweltering summer sun at the beach. Don’t want to die a slow, painful death from melanoma. 

I have even begun to eat more organic foods to avoid the unnecessary consumption of those insidious pesticides. Don’t want to tempt fate or roll the dice with suspect cancer agents. Why, I even read the warning labels on artificial sweeteners and diet soft drinks and, occasionally, I’ll heed those dire health messages even though they are based on the death rate of laboratory animals.

Over the decades of dietary guidance from the experts, we’ve heard it all. Eat more veggies. Drink red wine. Eat broccoli, nature’s broom. Cut down on fats and cholesterol. Eat an apple a day. Wild rice is good, white rice is bad.

Those basic rules for good health and longevity seemed so simple years ago. Direct, straightforward, and easy to follow. And, if you forgot the specific dietary menu, you’d simply apply the fundamental rule: everything in moderation.

But now, we are inundated with nutrition studies on a daily basis with often conflicting advice. Medical researchers and dietary statisticians tell us how long (or short) we will live and what the mathematical chances are that we will be stricken by some dread disease, all based on our dietary habits.

Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and other medical scientific journals forecast with seeming mathematical certainty our prospects for longevity, whether (or when) we will have a stroke, even our chances of being stricken by Alzheimer’s based on our life-styles and dietary habits.

A report published in JAMA is a case in point. According to medical researchers, being obese at age 20 can cut up to 20 years off a person’s life. Now, I suppose that’s good news if today you are grossly overweight at age 16 and can take action to slim down over the next four years. But, if you were obese 30 years ago at age 20, apparently your statistical goose is cooked and you’ll die 20 years younger. You can just mark off the days until the grim reaper does the math.

Other medical research reports offer statistical evidence for hope and optimism. Another JAMA study announces that eating fish once a week reduces the risk of stroke by 40%. Life-long, devout Catholics should be overjoyed that their Friday fish routine will yield health benefits here on Earth in addition to the spiritual benefits promised in the hereafter. Of course, other research scientists warn consumers to factor into their menu planning recent reports on the risk of mercury content in seafood.

This blizzard of medical studies creates an enigmatic labyrinth of dietary rules for prolonged life. Other studies have given us even more statistical data on our dietary habits:

• A Harvard study concludes that those who drink beer, wine, or liquor at least three days per week have one-third fewer heart attacks. (Let’s drink a happy toast to those brilliant medical researchers!) 

• A report in the International Journal of Cancer concludes that eating tomatoes reduces the risk of prostate cancer by 35%, esophageal cancer by 57%, colon cancer by 61%, and rectal cancer by 58%. And, one serving of strawberries per week can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35%.

• An issue of the journal Med Alert reports that women whose diet consists mostly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meat have a 30% lower mortality risk. (Boring meals for longer life?)

• Finnish researchers have reported that regular dietary intake of tea, onions, and apples significantly reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. (Of course, we all know this is due to flavonoids, which are polyphenolic antioxidants, right?)

• A Harvard study reports that following the USDA dietary guidelines and food pyramid results in a 20% reduced risk of chronic disease overall, and a 39% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease for men, while for women the risk reduction overall was 11% and 28% for cardiovascular disease.

Sorting through all this dietary advice is pretty complicated. But we need to make sense of it if we intend to live happily (and healthily) ever after (or at least until our number pops up in some statistical mortality calculation). 

So, what conclusions can we draw from all these medical researchers’ analyses of mortality, risk of disease, and dietary habits? A number of thoughts come to mind:

The medical researchers are really Las Vegas odds-makers drawing nutritional conclusions from statistical studies of death, disease, and diet, much like Jimmy “The Greek” used to set the point spread on NFL playoff games. Calculations for the Grim Reaper’s Super Bowl.

A tomato a day keeps the “Big C” away.

Two martinis a day protects against troubles with your ticker.

Eating fish more than once a week will help you avoid a stroke.

There is a medical survey that will justify any nutrition program you care to follow. So forget about those special diet plans and menus designed by health food fanatics. Just relax — eat, drink, be merry — and have one more for the road… maybe with a strawberry chaser.

And, while you’re at it, put a nice thick juicy sirloin steak on the Weber for me, will you?

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