Monday, May 23, 2011

Fast Food Nation

We created fast food, dang it.  And we're damn proud of it!  Don't believe me?  Is there a town where there isn't a McDonalds, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Wendy's, Arby's, Carl's Jr, Hardee's, Chik-Fil-A, KFC, Taco Bell (I feel like I'm thanking my NASCAR sponsors here), and it is pretty evident of the influence the fast-food industry has here in America, and they're exerting their reach overseas as well.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Brian Dixon, Senior Scientist at USANA Health Sciences give a presentation.  He is not your typical scientist, geeky, labcoat-donning, thick rimmed glasses nerd.  This guy loves life, and lives it to its fullest.  When he's not in the laboratory, he's in the mountains or at the gym.  He's one fit guy, and his educational focus was on oxidative stress so he knows his stuff when it comes to antioxidants.  In fact, you can read some of his official biography on USANA's website,

You hear about oxidative stress and antioxidants through the media on a daily basis.  We're constantly bombarded with oxidative stress that create free radicals which alter cellular structures.  And you're probably wondering how you can escape the effects of oxidative stress.  Bluntly, you cannot.  You can run, but you can't hide.  Antioxidants can help you hide better, but eventually, oxidative stress will find you!  I'll explain more about free radicals and antioxidants in a later blog.  For now, we'll touch up on two points that Dr. Dixon brought up in his presentation that are pretty interesting and important to know.

First off, you've heard of the RDA, right?  The Recommended Daily Allowance in our nutritional intake that the government has set for us.  It is on the nutritional label on nearly every food product on the grocery store shelves that people quickly glance over to see the caloric content, fat, sugar, carbs, or whatever the one thing they're focusing on.  Lots of numbers and percentages, oy.  What you probably don't know is that the RDA was set back during WWII since resources were used for the war effort and thus became scarce for civilians and military alike.  The RDA set the minimum nutritional requirements just to sustain life and was used in the development of MREs for the military.  A lot has changed since the 1940's and today in terms of improved nutrition research, advanced technology, soil that's virtually devoid of nutrients, the development of highly processed foods and a mindset of convenience, not what's best for the body.  So what does this mean for the RDA?  Well, you know the Poverty Line, right?  Created by (drumroll, please...) the government.  It loosely defines the minimum standard of living based on income and the ability to purchase necessities such as food.  According to Dr. Dixon, "The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) set by the government is like the government setting the poverty line for dietary intake."  Yikes!  Even if you get 100% of everything in the RDA, you're STILL not getting the optimal nutrition intake needed to be healthy!  In other words, would you be able to have the lifestyle you want with an income at the poverty level?  Thought so.  Neither can you with poor nutrition intake.

The next thing Dr. Dixon talked about is the dangers of fast food.  We've all heard it, right?

     "It's bad for you."
     "It'll clog your arteries."
     "It's a heart attack waiting to happen."

And a whole litany of warnings pertaining to the dangers of fast food.  However, in the sake of convenience, we turn a deaf ear to those warnings.  I'm more of a visual person myself and THIS experiment is more than enough to convince me not to eat fast food ever again.  I haven't eaten fast food, other than Subway, in years, and there's a reason for that - it is nasty!  Dr. Dixon's experiment proved this.  Just to show you what a cool scientist Dr. Dixon is, he used himself as a guinea pig for this experiment.  


Dr. Dixon had a blood sample taken from his arm and this was used as the control.  

Next, he ate a supersized meal at a fast food restaurant, complete with a big burger, extra large fries, a large soda, the whole nine yards.  While some people are probably salivating while reading this, I was trying to squelch my gag reflex as Dr. Dixon showed us the video clip of him eating this...crap.  By the looks on Dr. Dixon's face, it didn't look like he enjoyed it much either.  After this "meal" was digested, he had a blood sample taken again.  

A few days after the fast food "meal", he ate a healthy meal, complete with chicken breast, salad, fruits and vegetables.  This looked quite good, to be honest with you.  Again, another blood sample was taken after this meal.

All three blood samples were spun in a centrifuge to separate the components (blood cells and plasma).  In the first and third samples (control and after healthy meal), the plasma was clear.  However, the second sample (after the fast food meal), the plasma was so cloudy, you could not see through it.  Oy vey!  All that processed stuff, chemicals and who-knows-what is in fast food winds up in the blood!  

As you can see in the diagram, the plasma contains "a dilute solution of salts, glucose, amino acids, vitamins, urea, proteins and fats".  The bold text is what fast foods primarily consists of and is virtually devoid of any positive nutritional value.  I don't know about you, but when I used to eat fast food, I have NEVER gotten a burger that looks as good as they have in the pictures.  Have you?

Bottom line: you are what you eat, and this experiment shows this!  Whatever you eat will wind up in your blood and your body will do whatever it takes to get rid of it.  However, if you keep loading your body with fast food junk, highly processed stuff and unnatural foods, it will have a hard time processing all of it, and not only will it show up on the scale, it will show up in your blood.  I highly suggest avoiding fast food places, but if you have the insatiable craving for that greasy burger and fries, sugary soda, then by all means go for it.  Just do it once in a while, not on a regular basis.  Your wallet will thank you, and so will your health.

Til next time.

Regular Joe Cool can be reached at Shoot him an email - he'll think you're cool.

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