I was coming home from a day in Gettysburg, when, on Route 11 entering Greencastle, I saw a billboard advertising not one, not two, but three hotdogs for $1. There they were: three pink little fat fingers in bun jackets, oozing with mustard, relish, catsup and more.
One dollar. Gee, if you have $3 in your pocket, you can get nine hotdogs for lunch ... Or maybe just a little snack. Why not? It’s only $3 ... .
Well, it’s also your health. First, there are very few redeeming qualities to this sort of fast food. The meats are made from ground meat byproducts, nitrate, nitrite and other additives. Everything is likely to contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is linked to everything from cancer to diabetes to obesity. This means HFCS is in the meat, the bun and every single condiment. The sodium level is off the charts for adult allowable amounts, the calories are far too many for three hot dogs let alone six, and I haven’t even touched upon the fat content or the number of calories from fat. This food, in this quantity is very simply a walking death trap. Do not fall for this type of marketing. It will kill you: slower than a bullet, but just as surely. In fact, it will not only kill you, it will make you progressively more sick and miserable along the way.
Why is this type of food so cheap and so readily available? The real answer is a long one that involves the Great Depression, food commodities and corn subsidies. Books like The Omnivores Dilemma have recently chronicled the journey that food takes from the field to the plate. Gross excess of subsidized corn is so plentiful that it is used to create the derivatives that are found in everything from your pancake syrup to your gas tank. Even orange and other juices contain citric acid – which is now overwhelmingly produced from corn.
There are many more of these chemical derivatives, which the FDA classifies as food. These have been linked to the growth of cancer tumors and the shutdown of the hormones that tell us to stop eating when we’re full. Places like Princeton University have upheld these claims, while recently the food industry has campaigned and seemingly removed such negative findings from the research conclusions. According to Wayne Scott Andersen, M.D., the medical director of the Medifast diet, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is processed by your liver, unlike sugar, which is processed by all your cells. Even though that seems to suggest that refined cane sugar is better than HFCS, refined sugar has few redeeming qualities of its own: the main thing people overlook when it comes to comparing HFCS to sugar. It’s like comparing arsenic to mercury for poisoning effect. And really, in the meat, bun and every condiment?! Start adding that sugar up. We don’t need to link HFCS itself to anything bad – it’s the cumulative effect.
The other answer to the question of “why so cheap?” is that the fast food outlet promoting the cheap dogs may even be losing money on them but is using them as an inducement to get you to stop. Then, you might buy even more snacks, sugary foods and soda pop to add to your feast.
When you eat this way day after day, month after month, and year after year, your blood sugar skyrockets and plummets multiple times per day. This is like putting your pancreas on a roller coaster that never stops. After a few years it starts to get worn out, and by the time you reach your 50s, your likely prediabetic if not diabetic. Here’s the kicker: You can be a healthy body weight because your caloric intake and burn keeps you that way, but the diabetes time bomb is ticking because of what you have been eating.
At the time this article was written, New York City was planning a ban on the size of sugary soft drink you could buy. Massive criticism has followed talk of the ban. NYC’s previous 2006 ban on trans-fats was met with little criticism or resistance. Why? Because we have information about fat consumption and heart disease that goes back to the 1920s. Multiple generations of American’s have learned about this in school and at home. The link between poor health, sugar and similar chemical derivatives like HFCS are a bit more recent, so we haven’t been as quick to accept them. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that this is yet another government intrusion into our freedoms, you should instead conclude that what and how much we eat really does affect the length and quality of our life.
As the obesity epidemic continues to spiral out of control (now more than half the population is overweight or obese), and the cost of caring for the chronic diseases associated with obesity (like diabetes, heart disease, vascular disease, high blood pressure and joint replacement) continues to expand with the population, we will reach a tipping point and more drastic measures will need to be taken to secure healthcare and financial stability for programs like Social Security and Medicare.
You can decide today that what and how much you put in your mouth and swallow, matters. Don’t be a statistic. Don’t claim you didn’t see it coming. It’s here.
Reaching Wellness can help you to make the changes in your life necessary for greater health, whether that is eating better, exercising or quitting smoking.