Archive for July, 2011

Male Obesity Causes Low Testosterone With Potentially Dire Medical Consequences

July 30, 2011

Testosterone (T) is an important male sexual hormone that promotes the physical changes that commence at the time of puberty including pubic, axillary and facial hair, deepening voice, prominent Adam’s apple and increased bone and muscle mass.  Throughout adulthood, testosterone helps maintain libido, masculinity, sexuality, and youthful vigor and vitality.  The lion’s share of testosterone is manufactured in the testicles, although a small percentage is made by the adrenal glands.

There is a gradual decline in T that occurs with the aging process—approximately a 1% decrease each year after age 30. The decline will occur in most men, but will not always be symptomatic. Symptoms of low T may include one or more of the following:  fatigue, irritability, depression, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction, decreased energy and sense of well-being, loss of muscle and bone mass, increased body fat, abnormal lipid profiles. Essentially, low T can accelerate the aging process.

Obesity can have a pivotal role in the process leading to low T. Fat is not just fat—it is a metabolically active endocrine organ that does not just protrude from our abdomens in an inert state.  Fat produces pro-inflammatory factors, hormones and immune cells—including cytokines—which function to inhibit T production in the testicles and the release of hypothalamus and pituitary hormones that govern the release of T.  Low T is present in about half of obese men.   Fat has an abundance of the hormone aromatase, which functions to convert T to the female hormone estrogen (E).  The consequence of too much conversion of T to E is the potential for gynecomastia, aka breast enlargement or alternatively, man boobs.

There is a strong relationship between low T and metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic Syndrome is defined as having three or more of the following: high blood glucose levels; abdominal obesity; high fats (triglycerides); low levels of the “good” cholesterol (HDL); and high blood pressure. If we have a substantial amount of belly fat, then by definition we have insulin-resistance, a condition in which our pancreas works overtime in order to make more and more insulin to get glucose into our cells.  This is a precursor to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all the havoc they can wreak.  Those with metabolic syndrome have a much-increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Bottom line:  Abdominal obesity—an accumulation of fat in our midsections—not only is unattractive from a cosmetic standpoint, but can have dire metabolic consequences that can unequivocally affect the quality and quantity of our lives. Obesity in males often promotes low levels of the all-important male hormone testosterone, which can have a number of detrimental effects on our sexuality, bone and muscle health, energy, well-being, etc.  The good news is that by losing the abdominal fat, all of the potentially bad consequences can be reversed.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

http://www.PromiscuousEating.com for information on Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship With Food

http://www.youtube.com/incontinencedoc for educational videos on low T and a variety of other urological and wellness subjects

Scary Stuff: Our Drinking Water

July 24, 2011

I live in the cozy village of Ridgewood—a nice, suburban town in Bergen County, New Jersey, just a short ride from the George Washington Bridge.  I recently received the 2011 water quality report, something I would most typically file in the recycling bin without a glance or a thought, but my interest in what precisely it is that we are putting in our bodies left me compelled to read the report.

To start with a verbatim quote from the report: “Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants.  The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk.  In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, EPA and NJDEP prescribe regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems.  FDA regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water, which must provide similar protection for public health.  EPA regulations are more stringent than FDA regulations.”

Ridgewood’s water source is primarily groundwater from wells.  As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves minerals and radioactive materials and can pick up substances from the presence of “animals or human activity.”  Contaminants may include the following:

  • Bacteria and viruses from sewage, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife
  • Salts and metals from natural sources or from storm runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas projection, mining or farming
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Organic chemical contaminants from industry, petroleum production, gas stations, storm water runoff and septic systems
  • Radioactive contaminants from natural sources or oil, gas, mining activities

Ridgewood Water Department issues susceptibility ratings for seven contaminant categories—the possible ratings are high, medium, or low.  “If a system is rated highly susceptible for a contaminant category, it does not mean a customer is or will be consuming contaminated drinking water.  The rating reflects the potential for contamination of source water, not the existence of contamination.”  I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person, but I have trouble understanding the aforementioned concept, which is present in boldface in the report.  Here is the actual report of the 58 wells:

Source                                                       High          Medium          Low

Pathogens                                                    1                  53                   4

Nutrients*                                                   33                25

Pesticides                                                                      27                   31

Volatile organic compounds                        55                                        3

Inorganics                                                   37                21

Radionuclides                                              32                26

Radon                                                          58

Disinfection Byproduct Precursors                4                   54

* Nutrients  are defined as compounds, minerals and elements that aid growth, both naturally-occurring and man-made, e.g., nitrogen and phosphorous.  In my humble opinion, this is quite the euphemism!

Is it just me, or is the aforementioned report frightening, alarming and terrifying?  I think that I summed up the situation pretty well in my book Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship With Food:

“Is water contamination any great surprise to us? Collectively, human imprudence and greed have been rather unkind to Mother Earth. What goes around, comes around, i.e., cosmic karma—for years we have polluted the air, water and soil of the earth and are now paying dearly for it—we have been wanton in our actions and our folly is coming back to haunt us. Our power plants, vehicles, refineries and industrial facilities have spewed horrific volumes of exhaust gases, smoke and by-products of coal combustion into our air. We have dumped billions of tons of industrial effluents, mining and agricultural wastes and raw sewage into our rivers and oceans. We have polluted our soils with chemicals from herbicides and pesticides and have overfilled landfills with garbage and toxic materials. There are well over 1000 Superfund toxic waste cleanup sites in the USA! Our civilization has stripped the earth, mined it, burned it, consumed its natural resources, deforested it, emitted into it . . . basically, we have raped and pillaged and destroyed much of it. We have paved over large swathes of the earth in an effort to urbanize and industrialize the land…and are now at the point where there is much less of anything clean and natural left.

This life of ours is not a board game: Just by virtue of our being able to transport, shift, and compartmentalize our waste into discrete dumpsites, basically a lose-lose strategy of taking hazardous matter from point A to point B, does not liberate us from their ill—likely deadly—effects. In essence, our now “Going Green” may be too late since we “Went Red” a long, unfortunate time ago. What happens to the inhabitants of the planet is a microcosm of what happens to Mother Earth, since we—and almost all that we eat—breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the food grown in the soil.”

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

This is just a taste of what you will find in Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food. The website for the book is: www.promiscuouseating.com.

It provides information on the book, a trailer, excerpts, ordering instructions, as well as links to a wealth of excellent resources on healthy living.  It is also available on Amazon Kindle.

E. Coli Contamination Of Our Food

July 16, 2011

Fecal bacterial contamination of our foods is an increasingly prevalent problem and one that has received a significant amount ofpublicity—to wit, numerous disturbing reports on E. Coli 0157:H7 contamination of hamburger meat resulting in recalls. The astonishing and frightening lead articles on the front page of the October and December 2009 New York Times by investigative reporter Michael Moss cannot help but make us question whether we ever really want to eat another hamburger again. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his article entitled, “The Burger That Shattered Her Life,” describing the horrible E. Coli illness linked to the consumption of Cargill ground beef by a young woman.

Fecal bacterial contamination of livestock is viewed by the government and meat suppliers as acceptable and a given at certain levels. However, even a small amount of contamination—a collateral effect of what animals are fed and how they are raised—can make us very ill, or in some instances, even cause death.  If we buy ground beef off the shelves of a supermarket, what we actually get is an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and different slaughterhouses, both nationally and internationally. One hamburger may represent a composite of up to 1000 cows! The more cows and the more slaughterhouses involved in the ground beef, the greater the risk of fecal contamination.  There exists strong potential for bacterial E. Coli contamination during every single step of beef processing. And so it would seem that the only way for us to get a hamburger that originates from one cow and dramatically reduce our potential for E. Coli exposure is by purchasing a cut of beef and having our butcher grind it up for us—I’m told brisket makes for an amazing burger.

A company called Beef Products, Inc., came up with the “clever” concept of using the lowliest waste products of the beef carcass—fatty slaughterhouse trimmings with no functional value, typically used for pet food and cooking oil—as a means of keeping the cost of hamburger meat as low as possible. This company conceived the novel idea of treating the fatty trimmings with ammonia to kill the bacterial contaminants, particularly E. Coli and Salmonella, prevalent because of the low grade and quality of beef remnants used. The ammonia works no differently than it does for household cleaning, the alkalinity of the ammonia causing bacterial death. Unfortunately, the ammonia has not proven to be a failsafe measure of sterilization, and there have been numerous instances of bacterial-contaminated beef; plus, who wants to be consuming ammonia, a product that truly belongs on our bathroom floors! Beef Products’ meats are widely used in fast food restaurants, including McDonalds and Burger King, as well as in the ground beef sold in supermarkets and used in the federal school lunch program. School lunch officials allow hamburgers served in schools to contain 15% of the product, which serves to bring the price down. Some customers have complained about the ammonia-like taste and the pungent odor of their beef. Ammonia is not listed as an ingredient on the label, but is referred to by the moniker “processing agent.” A former USDA microbiologist, G. Zirnstein, commented that the beef product is a “pink slime that I do not consider to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.”

E. Coli 0157:H7—a type of bacteria that is responsible for hemorrhagic colitis and a myriad of other health problems, even including death—is often contracted by the consumption of contaminated beef, although it can also occur by eating spinach and apple juice contaminated from the fecal run-off from farms that raise cattle. E. Coli 0157:H7 is a product of two factors—the corn that the Industrial Food Complex feeds cattle and the feedlot where the cattle are raised. Cows are hard-wired to eat grass, but since corn is cheap, convenient and every kernel contains a big dollop of starch (corn has been bred to contain more carbohydrates and less protein), it will make for bigger and fatter cattle. We all know how too many “carbs” make us humans fat, and the same is true for other mammals. These literally obese cattle will get to slaughter faster and yield beef that is well-marbled with saturated fat that commands a higher ranking on the USDA beef hierarchy and translates into more dollars and profits for the industry. The beef from grass-fed cattle is different than that from corn-fed cattle, essentially being less marbled with saturated fats, healthier, and less likely to be contaminated with E. Coli and other such bacteria.

Since the digestive system of ruminants like cattle did not evolve for the digestion of large quantities of corn, their consumption of corn—as opposed to grass, the staple of a ruminant mammal’s diet—changes the bacterial content of the cow’s stomach, allowing for the emergence of E. Coli. Under circumstances of a grass diet, stomach acidity results in the death of most of the bacteria within a cow’s stomach. Cattle raised on grass on real ranches via traditional pasture farming lead a much different life from cattle raised on feedlots, which are the large industrial factories where most cattle are raised in over-crowded and contaminated environments. These animal factories are known as CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). It is to some extent similar to the difference between living leisurely in an affluent suburb on a large piece of land, versus a crowded, infested, and dangerous inner city environment. Cattle raised in feedlots stand in very filthy and over-populated conditions, ankle-deep in manure, with their hides caked with excrement, overfed with starch-rich corn and further fattened by their limited availability to move around. The use of antibiotics in the feed is, in fact, an attempt to neutralize some of this fecal contamination.

The problem occurs in the slaughterhouse where the more manure on the animal, the greater the risk of fecal contamination upon processing the animal. Cattle often arrive with smears of feedlot feces on their hides and when the knife is brought to the flesh, the meat can get exposed to bacterial contaminants that are present in the cow feces. Ground beef, in particular, lends itself to contamination because its constituent parts are often the lower quality parts of the cow that are more likely to have fecal contact. There is additional risk of E. Coli contamination at the gutting station, where the intestinal tract—where E. coli resides—is separated from the rest of the animal.

So what to do? There are a number of possible solutions. We can cook our hamburgers so that they are so well done—ala hockey pucks—that bacteria don’t have a fighting chance. We can forego meat and become vegetarians or vegans. We could select certified organicallyraised beef that has far less chance of contamination. In the ideal world, certified organic beef is derived from a ranch that maintains a record of breeding history and veterinary care rendered to its cattle. The cattle do not receive hormones or antibiotics, are fed organic grains and grasses, have unrestricted outdoor access, and are treated in a humane fashion. Alternatively, we can purchase meats from local farmers or at farmers markets. Or we can go to a reliable butcher and pick out a nice cut of meat and have him grind it in front of us. Or we can try the DIY (Do It Yourself) approach and raise a few head of cattle in our backyards (try getting a town or city permit for this one!).

Nullius in verba (take nobody’s word for it): I hate to throw a fly in the ointment, but is organic really organic, or is it mere semantics? Are organic livestock pasture-based? Prior to June 2010, at which time more stringent rules went into effect, the requirement for organic dairy producers was the following: organically-raised livestock had to have access to pasture. Theoretically, this might mean that a farmer permitted his cattle pasture time for 10 minutes each day—a mere romp in the field allowing for the label “organic.” This was a loophole allowing some dairies to feed their animals almost exclusively a diet of grain feeds. The new regulations state that cows must now graze on pasture for a major portion of the grazingseason—a minimum of 120 days mandated by law—and must get at least 30% of their food from pasture during the grazing period.These new rules also apply to beef cattle, with the exception that the 30% requirement is suspended during the 4-month period when the animals are fattened prior to slaughter. Ahhh . . . yet another disturbing loophole in the quest for truly grass-fed cows!

In New York City there are now several Shake Shack restaurants where, in contradistinction to your typical fast food restaurant, you can get what seems to be as close to a healthy burger as you possibly can. Right off their menu is the following: whole-muscle, no-trimmings, fresh-ground, antibiotic-and-hormone-free, source-verified-to-ranch-of-birth, choice-or-higher-grade Black Angus beef. Sounds like a great option when that carnivorous craving strikes!

And now a little aside on American-grown poultry exported to Russia and Europe, according to a New York Times report by Michael Schwirtz in January 2010. Russia’s view is that American poultry is fatty, tasteless and raised on chemicals. From Russia’s perspective, the critical issue is that American companies use chlorine to disinfect the poultry after slaughter. Russian health officials feel that the chlorine method is unsafe and outlawed it in 2008, as had the European Union previously. The Russian government imposed a ban on the importation of American chicken, purportedly because US companies have been remiss in adhering to Russia’s new food safety regulations. Prime Minister Putin stated that the USA was not ready to observe Russian poultry standards. Yikes, so we use chlorine to disinfect our chickens, just as we do to decontaminate our pools and our standards are not good enough for Europe and Russia!

 Another healthy alternative chosen by many is to buy kosher meats. Kosher foods—prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws and requiring certification—have really come into their own in this era of food fears engendered by numerous reports of food contamination, food allergies, and the dubious provenance of many ingredients. Forty percent of the food items sold at supermarkets now bear the kosher imprint and only fifteen percent of those who buy kosher do so for religious reasons. The vast majority of those who buy kosher, including an increasing number of non-Jewish people, do so because of the perceived high quality, purity of ingredients and healthiness, thought of in a similar vein as local and organic foods. Is kosher food actually any healthier or safer than non-kosher food? The honest answer is that we just don’t know.

This is just a taste of what you will find in Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food. The website for the book is: www.promiscuouseating.com. It provides information on the book, a trailer, excerpts, ordering instructions, as well as links to a wealth of excellent resources on healthy living.  It is also available on Amazon Kindle.

A synopsis of Brian Wansink’s: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

July 9, 2011

I just finished reading an excellent paperback by Brian Wansink, PhD, entitled: Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.  This book offers some very practical and useful advice, so I thought I would summarize it for the benefit of those who do not have the time or the inclination to read the entire book.

Allow me to segue into the synopsis by starting with a short story.  Yesterday morning I stopped at the International Food Market to pick up a few items.  I wasn’t hungry when I walked in, but the sight and scent of a smorgasbord of interesting foods literally made my juices flow.  In accordance with the seminal work of Ivan Pavlov, even thinking of food makes us hungry as the salivary glands start secreting saliva and the pancreas starts secreting insulin.  When I arrived home, I was compelled to have a mid-morning snack, and there was just no getting around it.  All the mindfulness in the world wasn’t going to stop my noshing and it is Brian Wansink’s overarching thesis in his book that if we want to change our eating habits and behaviors, it is simply easier to change our environment than our minds.  If I really didn’t want to trigger my snack attack, perhaps I shouldn’t have gone food shopping in mid-morning—it is always better to go grocery shopping after a meal!

Wansink distinguishes between physical hunger and emotional hunger.  Physical hunger is gradual, perceived in our stomachs, occurs hours after eating a meal and disappears when we are full; the eating experience when physically hungry is quite satisfying for most of us.  On the other hand, emotional hunger is acute, occurs in our mind, is unrelated to how long ago we ate our previous meal, often persists after eating and may unleash secondary emotions including guilt and shame.

Mindless eating—eating without careful scrutiny and deliberation—is a powerful force because we are often unaware it is happening and most of the time we are not cognizant of the quantity of food that we are consuming.  Simply stated, our stomachs are bad at math and we don’t get much help from our attention or memory.  If we could see what we have eaten, we would probably eat less than we do. Wansink designed an experiment in which one group of people were given a standard serving of soup vs. a second group that were given a specially rigged “bottomless” soup bowl; interestingly, the former group consumed an average of 9 ounces vs. the latter group’s 15 ounces!  The moral is that many of us just do not know when to stop eating unless given external cues, such as a distinct portion that is served or observation of how much others in our dining group our consuming.

If we think we are Masters of our food choices, it is merely an illusion.  Our food preferences are predicated upon our habits, which can be both inherited and conditioned.  Most of us know that fruit and veggies are good for us and fast and processed foods are bad for us, but we file this information under “things we know and choose to ignore.” Our lives are full of eating “scripts”—habits that are an automated series of instructions carried out in a specific order such as the conditioned ritual of turning on the television, sitting in our favorite spot, salivating in Pavlovian fashion, and responding by arising to get popcorn and candy.  A typical breakfast script is reading the newspaper and refilling the cereal bowl until we are finished reading.  A common dinner script might be finishing the food on our plate and eating additional helpings until the others family members are done. Television and other forms of distracted dining, e.g., eating while driving (dashboard dining) are particularly dangerous because we really don’t heed the quantity of food consumed nor how long we have eaten for.

We tend to overeat because there are signals that tell us to eat, and it is not in our nature to pause after every bite and contemplate whether we’re full.  Culture wise, most Americans stop eating when achieving fullness as opposed to leaner cultures that stop eating when they are no longer hungry.  Okinawans subscribe to the premise of hara hachi bu, defined as eating until 80% full.  Studies have shown that French women pay more attention to internal cues like fullness as opposed to American women who, although regarding their sense of fullness, pay more heed to external cues such as the level of soup in a bowl.

We consume more from bigger packages, whatever the food; the same is true with bigger dishes, bowls and spoons—the size of a bag or bottle tells us what we think a serving size should be. Since our brains tend to over-focus on height of objects at expense of width, a short/fat glass will typically result in 20% more poured than tall/thin glass.  We tend to consume more if our expectations regarding the food quality are greater (halo effect); on the other hand, if our expectations are less, our enjoyment is less and we tend to eat less (shadow effect).  We eat more when there is more variety to choose from, hence beware the all-you-can-eat buffet. Premeditative eaters eat more than impulsive eaters (the more we think about eating, the more we eat). We tend to eat more food if it is advertised as “low fat” or “healthy.”  Pause points, such as internal sleeves in packaged goods, tend to interrupt our eating and give us the chance to decide if we want to continue; so those internal sleeves in cookie packages really do serve a purpose.

Clearly, based upon our poor ability to lose weight and maintain that loss, diets are not effective for the vast majority of people and there are some very good reasons for this.  Diets are depriving, discouraging and demoralizing—our body, brain and environment fights against deprivation; metabolic changes occur with starvation that slow our metabolisms and thwart the weight loss; denial yields cravings causing the foods we don’t bite to come back to bite us.  The good news is that the same forces that lead us to mindlessly gain weight can help us mindlessly lose weight. Habit can defeat the tyranny of the moment.  Wansink’s premise is to re-engineer our environment and eating habits so that we can eat enjoyably and mindfully without guilt and weight gain. His mantra is: the best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.  The same levers that cause weight gain can be pushed to slowly promote weight loss—unknowingly.  If we don’t realize we’re eating a little less than we need, we don’t feel deprived.  If we don’t feel deprived, we’re less likely to backslide and overeat to compensate.  The key is the mindless margin—the zone in which we can slightly overeat or under eat without being aware of it.  By heeding this mindless margin, we can trim 100-200 calories/day easily and unknowingly.

So, we don’t notice 100-200 calorie difference and can trim these calories easily and unknowingly and thus mindlessly eat better.  Helpful strategies include food tradeoffs: I can eat x if I do y, for example, I can eat dessert if I exercise.  Other helpful strategies include food policies including, for example: 20% less; no second helpings of starch; never eat at work desk; only eat snacks without wrappers; no bagels on weekdays; half desserts, etc.

 

Analogous to public health measures that function to improve our health by re-engineering our environment with respect to sidewalks, bike lanes, parks, limiting fast food facilities, Wansink offers a number of re-engineering solutions for improving our home environment and eating habits that can help stem mindless eating:

•Pre-plate entrees and snacks so we know precisely the amount we will be eating

•Control our “tablescape” or it will control us: smaller plates, utensils, packages; slender glasses to keep us slender; the fewer side dishes and bowls put on the table, the less that will be consumed

•Principle of invisibility—we eat more when food is placed in transparent wrap rather than in tin foil (out of sight, out of mind/in sight, in mind); as an extension, display healthy foods, hide unhealthy foods

Convenience principle: the more hassle it is to eat, the less will be eaten: shelled vs. unshelled nuts; chopsticks vs. standard utensils

Salience (conspicuous) principle: huge, warehouse multi-pack containers get in the way and beg to be eaten and pared down, so don’t buy them

•Change “eating scripts” from weight gain scripts to weight loss scripts: re-script dinner—start last, pace w/slowest eater, leave some food on plate, decide how much to eat before meal

•Recognize that when we eat with others, we will eat more

•Volume trumps calories—we eat the volume we want, not the calories we want; the two cheapest ingredients we can add to food are water and air

•Serve entrée but put salad and veggies family style in middle of table

•De-convenience tempting foods: back of refrigerator, top of pantry, etc.

•Eat before shopping, use list, stick to perimeter

•Split entrée; have half pre-packed to take home; have two appetizers in lieu of entrée; 2 bites of dessert (the best part of dessert is the first two bites)

•Distract yourself before you snack

•Don’t deprive ourselves—allow comfort foods, but eat in smaller amounts; rewire comfort foods—instead of cookies, candy, chips, cake, try small bowl of ice cream with strawberries

•For lunch and dinner, half of the plate should be veggies and fruit, the other half protein and starch

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food. www.PromiscuousEating.com

http://www.facebook.com/promisceating

Questionable Cuisine

July 2, 2011

We are hardwired to be attracted to the taste of fat, salt and sugar in order to help us survive. Fat gave our ancestors the caloric reserves to sustain themselves through lean times. Salt helped them prevent dehydration by retaining water and sugar helped them to be able to make the distinction between sweet, edible berries from dangerous sour, poisonous ones.

There are whole foods—integral foods if you will, for example, apples—in which what you see is what you get—and then there are foods that consist of a mélange of ingredients mixed together and prepared. I propose that if we could see the precise ingredients that go into making many recipes—particularly processed packaged foods—we would be somewhat more reluctant to eat them. The final product simply hides all the component ingredients. When it comes to hot dogs and similar type foods, I would be so bold as to state that were it possible to see the component ingredients laid out in front of us, our relationship with this kind of food would be brought to an abrupt halt!

The following words are on specific foods that many of us enjoy-crave-love, but must go under the heading “questionable cuisine.” Hot dogs sure do taste great on a nice, soft bun with mustard slathered all over, but in my opinion, they are just not worth it. They go down easy, but they are a bitter pill to swallow! Why? Simply because they are nothing other than undesirable fatty animal parts ground into a homogeneous composite and stuffed into a synthetic casing, drowned in preservatives—toxic waste in a tube, if you will. The same may be said of many other cured luncheon-type meats—salami, bologna, pepperoni and other “mystery” meats. I always wonder about anything that is ground up and reconstituted—clearly, if someone is grinding up bits and pieces and then putting them back together into one combined unit, that someone is likely trying to hide the presence of some very undesirable components! What is it exactly they are hiding in there? If truth be told, I don’t really care to find out! I am happy to say that I gave up all “mystery” meats over a decade ago and haven’t missed them a bit.

Doughnuts are nutrient-empty, fat-laden, fried, doughy sugar balls—the only healthy part of which is the air hole in the center—in other words, no doughnut at all! I must confess to recently having had a beignet at Café du Monde in New Orleans, but it was a very special occasion, and otherwise I have been “clean” for about five years.

Fast foods, with occasional exception, are the quintessential unhealthy dietary development of modern times. To me, they can be thought of as greasy, fat-laden, calorie-dense, low-fiber, over-salted, queasy-engendering, bad aftertaste-in-your-mouth junk. On occasion, fast food is unavoidable, so if we have no other options (such as when we are traveling), we can opt for the salads or the broiled, not fried, meal alternatives. That being said, fast food chains of recent have been making a real effort to serve healthier and reduced-calorie alternatives, and this concept seems to be gaining traction. Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, among other fast food franchises, have made claims that they offer sandwiches that are low in calories and fat. It is noteworthy that they are all loaded with sodium—far in excess of what would be considered healthy—and an additional caveat is that if high-fat condiments are used, they will mitigate the lower fat and calorie benefits.

We are now drinking more calories than ever before in the form of sweetened drinks—sodas, teas, punches, etc. The problem is that these empty calories are the equivalent of liquid candy and do not provide satiety, but do supply us with a large bolus of rapidly absorbed, pre-digested calories that clearly has contributed to the obesity epidemic. The lion’s share of the sweetener used in these products is high fructose corn syrup, obviously an unhealthy choice, although sugar in the quantities used to sweeten these products is no less unhealthy.

This is just a taste of what you will find in Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food. The website for the book is: http://www.PromiscuousEating.com. It provides information on the book, a trailer, excerpts, ordering instructions, as well as links to a wealth of excellent resources on healthy living. It is also available on Amazon Kindle.  Happy July 4th holiday…eat well, be well, live well!