Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Biggest Turkey- 3rd Place

3rd Place- Organophiles and Foodaphobes Boy oh boy I am sick of hearing the following lamentations: Our food is killing us with chemicals. There’s a conspiracy to put addictive additives in our snack cakes. We’re being force fed sugar, or worse, high fructose corn syrup. It’s no small irony that these complaints tend to come from people 50lbs overweight who are shoveling Little Debbies into their pie holes so quickly they nearly choke.

The Chemical Fallacy- The bottom line is all foods contain chemicals. There are no exceptions to that rule, but fear not. The prevalent idea is that chemicals are bad (most of these people conjure up bizarre images of scientists in lab coats hunkered over glowing ooze) and indicative of ‘tampering’ with the food supply. They claim that food companies add these naughty chemical to their food to: a) give them cancer because they’re in cahoots with Big Pharma and the Government b) make their consumers addicted to their product, a process that is facilitated by the Government c) because the makers of food products are too dimwitted to comprehend what they are putting in their products, yet a high school dropout with an eco-freak book or a weird hippy with an organic garden can do so competently.
Idiots cite proof like this bit of stupid: “margarine and plastic are only one molecule away from each other.”
I can only guess this is an attempt to make a paranoid fantasy sound legitimate by tossing in a word like molecule. Would you like a glass H2O2- of course you wouldn’t because that’s hydrogen peroxide. Simply by removing a single oxygen atom we produce water (H20)- a necessity of life. Similar chemical structures do not imply that two substances will have remotely the same effect in the human body.
There are, after all, only 118 things on the planet that anything can be made from (consult the periodic table of elements) and it’s only reasonable to assume that there will be a little overlap.

The Cancer Fallacy- Secondly, in spite of what any one doctor or single study says, the overall picture is a trend towards living longer. If preservatives in food were that big of a deal we would have seen a sharp drop in lifespan. The most convincing evidence cited to support this argument is a rise in cancer rates. At first it seems to indicate that we are getting ‘sicker’ in some numerically impossible way since we’re living longer and the population keeps increasing. But the rise of cancer rates is a deceptive statistic.
Most cancers don’t begin until much later in life. According to the American Cancer Society, the greatest likelihood for developing cancer is in the age group of 70 and older (according to their statistics 37.74% of men will develop cancer and 26.17% of women in that age group). That means the probability of developing this illness more that doubles between the 60-69 age group ( male probability is 15.71 and female is 10.23) and the 70+ group.
Our cancer rates have increased because the percentage of our population who live long enough to develop the disease has increased. To put that into context, the average life expectancy for a US citizen didn’t break 70 (the time when most cancers begin) until 1970, when the average life expectancy was 70.8. (
Another problem with cancer statistics is that diagnosis of cancer has become much more accurate. It’s likely that in eras past, cancer was simply misdiagnosed and treated as a different illness. Needless to say, most of these unfortunate suffers died- making it impossible for them to pass on their genetic material. With better treatment, survival rates have increased dramatically , and with those the likelihood that survivors will pass on their genetic legacy has increased. Since cancer has a strong genetic component, it’s difficult to imagine that passing on ones’ genes would have no impact on the health of the subsequent generations.

The Shadowy Addictive Additive Fallacy- People are very suspicious because there are ingredients in their food that they can’t pronounce. I have personally witnessed many a nitwit go on a long diatribe reading off each individual ingredient they couldn’t pronounce or identify. The inability of a moron to pronounce a chemical name does necessarily make that chemical “bad”. In fact, there seem to be a lot of things that these types of people cannot pronounce or comprehend.
But things that are poorly understood make excellent scapegoats. It’s easy enough to look at a can, see some words you can’t pronounce, and declare that the unknown thing must somehow be linked to your woes. That doesn’t make it true. I have heard people blame everything from moderate listlessness to convulsions on the alleged properties of food additives, and yet there seems to be a tremendous gap in what objective evidence can prove.
An addictive substance must meet the following criteria: induce a pleasant state, create long-term chemical changes in the brain, and create dependence. It must also trigger tolerance, physical dependence and uncontrollable cravings (Penn State Research).
If a substance like sugar did that, wouldn’t everyone be addicted? The fact that so many things contain sugar actually works against those who would argue that sugar is more addictive than heroin. A ubiquitously and ready available substance with those kinds of addictive properties should produce a world of sugar junkies- yet it hasn’t.
There is evidence to support the notion that sugar can be addictive in some instance. For example, a 2002 study conducted by Princeton University found that rats fed on a consistent high-sugar, then removed from that diet, would binge on the sugar drink at the next available opportunity. They noted that the behavior and physical changes in the rats were consistent with other addictive substances. However, there’s a caveat that advocates of sugar addiction fail to mention: in the Princeton experiment an astounding 46% of the rats caloric intake came from sugar, as opposed to the 15-28% of the average American. If an American consumed 46% of their diet in the form of sugar it would approximately be 920 calories (based on a 2000 calorie diet). That’s approximately 6 Twinkies (the serving size is one), and chances are if you’re consuming that many calories from sweets you know you’re not exactly a health food junky. When you cram half a dozen snacks into your face, you forfeit your right to be shocked about your poor health- oh and by the way. You have no one to blame but yourself (Penn State Research).


Post a Comment