In 2013, NBA big man Dwight Howard developed a rare nerve disorder called dysesthesia while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. He had tingling in his extremities and was losing motor function, to the point he had difficulty catching passes.
Dysesthesia is common among prediabetics — not men who make a living physically exerting themselves. But Lakers nutritionist Cate Shanahan knew Howard had a “legendary sweet tooth,” and suspected his tingling was due to his sugar intake. Sure enough, Howard revealed to her he had been consuming an unthinkable amount of sugar. According to ESPN:
“Howard had been scarfing down about two dozen chocolate bars’ worth of sugar every single day for years, possibly as long as a decade. “You name it, he ate it,” she says. Skittles, Starbursts, Rolos, Snickers, Mars bars, Twizzlers, Almond Joys, Kit Kats and oh, how he loved Reese’s Pieces.”
Howard will likely be remembered as a good player who never achieved his physical potential. Made of nothing but lean, fast-twitch muscle, he is one of the most impressive physical specimens to ever play in the NBA. But he’s averaged less than 20 points per game over his career, and critics will always wonder how much better he might have been had he maintained a healthy diet during his prime.
Perhaps the most remarkable (or disturbing) part about the Howard story is that it’s not all that uncommon within the realm of men’s professional sports. There are a startling number of high-profile NBA and NFL players who’ve kept objectively terrible diets during their playing days, including:
Kwame Brown: Like Howard, Brown was a highly touted prospect who jumped to the NBA right out of high school. He’s also one of the biggest disappointments in NBA history, recording only one double-digit scoring season in his 13 in the league. That may have been due in part to his dreadful diet. Brown ate Popeye’s fried chicken for every meal, even breakfast, when he entered the league.
Lamar Odom: Long before he was a bit player in the Kardashian universe, Odom was a professional basketball player with a serious candy habit. He ate candy for breakfast before games, saying it helped fuel his performance on the court. Specifically, he ate Twizzler bites, Gummy bears, peach rings and Hershey’s white-chocolate cookies-and-cream bars (his favorite).
Derrick Rose: Back when he was an MVP point guard for the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose admitted to regularly eating McDonald’s, potato chips and, of course, lots of candy. He kept a Skittles vending machine in his home. “Everybody’s got their poison, and mine is sugar,” Rose told ESPN in 2010…
It’s not just the check—restaurant meals put us in a ‘consumer mindset’
One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll get from personal finance experts is to eat out less. By cooking at home, you almost always manage to spend less money on food (not to mention eat healthier).
But a new study not only confirms that eating out is bad for your finances, but suggests that eating out is among the worst things you can do for your personal financial health.
“What we saw consistently throughout the study was that when people reported their dining-out budget for the second time during the experiment, it was significantly higher than what they stated the first time,” Penn State professor Amit Sharma, one of the study’s co-authors, tells Futurity. “What this tells us is that obviously they thought they would spend less in a week, but as the week progressed, they realized they were spending a lot more and they rationalized that increase.”
Specifically, people increased their personal dining out budgets from less than $18 in the first week of the study to $55 in week two, when they realized the first figure was unrealistic.
I’m not sure where these study respondents live that any of them think $18 would last them a week’s worth of dining out. They certainly don’t live in L.A., where $18 gets you a tablespoon of quinoa with a side of two fig leaves, or New York, where $18 is the admission price for the privilege of waiting to maybe buy a cronut.
What’s most interesting, though, is the rationalization part. Rather than curb their dining out in the face of that information, people just readjust their budgets to meet their actual spending habits.
People’s tendency to overspend is partially due to valuing immediate gratification over the long-term benefits of saving. In Sharma’s study, people’s weekly budget goals were no match for their pressing desire to go out and eat some delicious food. “We tend to discount the future more than we should and, therefore, place higher value on current consumption,” says Sharma.
Worse, the study suggests that eating out changes people’s mindset from saving to consumption.
Serious savers know that a commitment to saving is about more than abstaining from the occasional splurge — it’s a mindset that informs every aspect of their lives. They understand that while spending $5 at Starbucks may seem like a minor purchase, it’s actually very important. That daily $5 purchase each morning equates to more than $1,200 over the course of a year, so serious savers opt for the shitty office brew. Conduct that calculus on all the small, seemingly inconsequential purchases in one’s life, and you have significant savings.
The people MEL profiled in our Into the Black series, for instance, didn’t pay off their debts because they refrained from buying expensive cars. They did so by identifying and cutting out any and all unnecessary purchases, no matter the size, and letting the savings accumulate over time. They bought cheap beer, hosted game nights and potlucks and took up free hobbies such as rock climbing instead of meeting their friends out at fancy cocktail bars.
But going out to eat seems to take a person out of that vigilant savings mindset: What’s a $5 coffee when I already spent $12 on lunch?
From ‘pink slime’ to bug burgers, a look at the quintessential American meal
For most of the world, the symbol most associated with America isn’t the bald eagle, George Washington or even the stars and stripes—it’s the hamburger and fries. But how much has this simple meal — a ground-beef sandwich with fried potatoes — changed since its glory days of the 1950s? Let’s find out.
1950s: According to Andrew Smith, author of The Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, the quality of hamburger meat was so bad in the early 20th century that by the 1950s, customers needed reassuring that what they were getting was actual meat. “Heading into the ‘50s, White Castle had beef slabs delivered to each outlet a couple times a day,” Smith says. “It was ground up in front of any customers in the store to assure everyone that their beef did come from a cow, as opposed to a variety of meat and other products from other slaughtered animals.”
So during the burger’s heyday, most people could feel confident that they were, in fact, getting 100 percent ground beef, while the fries were exactly as advertised: Potatoes, sliced in the restaurant and fried in animal oil.
Today: In 2008, a study by Brigid Prayson of the Cleveland Clinical Foundation tried to find out whether it was even possible for America to produce as much beef as was apparently being consumed — an interesting question, considering that there are fewer cattle being raised now than in the 1970s, and yet we’re eating more beef than we were then. The answers weren’t encouraging, and a test of a variety of fast-food burgers found that the amount of real meat in burgers ranged from just 2 to 14 percent. The rest was made up of what has become known as “pink slime,” or in the words of the study, “a mash of connective tissue, blood vessels, peripheral nerve, plant material, cartilage and bone.”
This nauseating goop was then doused in ammonium hydroxide, an antimicrobial agent once classified by the Department of Agriculture as “generally recognized as safe,” though the practice is banned in the European Union. McDonald’s and other chains have since claimed that they no longer use the stuff, but after a brief public backlash, it has crept back into grocery stores, with a 2014 study claiming that up to 70 percent of the ground beef sold in stores contains the dreaded pink slime.
The meat isn’t the only thing chock-full of chemicals now, either. A quick look at the fry ingredients listed on McDonald’s website reveals not just potatoes but rather a dozen different things, including chemicals with such appetizing names as sodium acid pyrophosphate (that’s the one that maintains their friendly yellow color). Essentially, most of the water in the fries has been replaced with fat, and a bunch of chemicals are added to make them taste like they were fried in animal fat, rather than the mix of corn and soybean oil they’re actually fried in.
1950s: “The combo of french fries and burgers as a meal became solidified during World War II, since meat was rationed and you needed to bolster what small amount of it you had with something else,” says Smith. How small exactly were the burgers? In 1950, the average burger weighed just 3.9 ounces—not so much bigger than a modern-day White Castle slider, at 2.2 ounces, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For their part, an average order of fries weighed roughly 2.4 ounces.
Today: As rationing came to an end, burgers began to fatten up. “Chains like Burger King came along offering bigger burgers with more meat, and the increased competition led to an arms race of the sizes and the styles of burgers,” Smith says. As a result, the average fast-food burger has quadrupled in size since the 1950s and now stands at a gut-busting 12 ounces. Fries, meanwhile, have nearly doubled in size, weighing in at 6.7 ounces (again according to the CDC)…
A randomized controlled trial shows the right diet can improve depression.
For the past seven years, I’ve been writing articles about food and mood, exploring how different diets and types of foods might create or help mental healthproblems. Despite a great amount of interest in this topic spawning dozens of popular books from Grain Brainto Eat Complete, the data we had was always limited. The vast majority of studies about food and mental health are observational, meaning some form of asking people what they eat and then tracking mental health variables. These data are limited by different types of bias, food studies being particularly prone to bias, as they are often done with “food frequency questionnaires” or FFQs asking about how many hamburgers or vegetables you eat. Even one of the most validated FFQs in the world, the one used for the Nurses’ Health study, has severe limitations. People who lied more about hamburger intake were healthier than those who didn’t, for example. With observational data, you usually find that healthy people who care about their health and listen to health messaging are healthier. Large observational studies are mostly interesting if they have findings that are opposite what is expected (for example, coffee drinkers, despite smoking more and drinking more alcohol, score higher on several measures of good health).
The real meat of science is in the randomized controlled trial. That means taking two groups of people, putting one through an experiment and one through a control, and seeing if there is a difference in outcomes between the groups. When it comes to mental illness, we did have some data for the use of randomized controlled trials of certain diets and some mood outcomes. All of these studies had depression as one of the measured endpoints, but none of these were in a group of depressed people trying different diets to feel better. The measures of depression were just collected along the way of a trial looking at something else (such as heart disease). In these trials, changing diet to various options (such as Mediterranean or lower cholesterol) didn’t worsen symptoms of depressed mood, but only diet trials that didn’t restrict red meat or weren’t described as “low cholesterol” diets were effective in lowering measures of depression by the end of the study. Another randomized therapy trial for early depression in the elderly used a nutritional instruction arm as the control (thinking that food instruction was neutral and wouldn’t help mental health), finding it equal to a type of community-based psychotherapy in preventing worsening of depression.
This year, finally, we have the SMILES trial, the very first dietary trial to look specifically at a dietary treatment in a depressed population in a mental health setting. Participants met criteria for depression and many were already being treated with standard therapy, meds, or both. The designers of this trial took the preponderance of observational and controlled data we already have for general and mental health and decided to train people using dietary advice, nutritional counseling, and motivational interviewing directed at eating a “modified Mediterranean diet” that combined the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines for Adults in Greece. They recommended eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes, unsweetened dairy, raw nuts, fish, chicken, eggs, red meat (up to three servings per week), and olive oil. Everyone in the study met criteria for a depressive disorder…
When a person attempts conversation about how something causes cancer, they are often met with the dismissive response “but everything causes cancer.” They are right, in a way. Almost everything does cause cancer, yet it is possible to avoid.
This article can be a resource for avoiding carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and health damaging chemicals. It only scratches the surface, but this should be a perfect introduction for someone who is unaware that many things are too toxic to tolerate.
1. Chemicals in Food
A. GM, pesticide contaminated soy is linked to endocrine disruption and cancer
As you may have heard, the pesticide RoundUp or glyphosate is an enemy to public health in several ways, but did you know many soy products are contaminated with it, and can cause endocrine disruption and cancer?
Genetically modified soybeans are grown in great abundance, and the result is cheap, plentiful soybean oil. The soybean oil is put into just about every processed food product you can think of, and it often contains the pesticide it is genetically modified to be resistant to.
Have you ever heard of doctors prescribing anti-depressants, referencing a “chemical imbalance” as the cause of depression? Well endocrine disruption, hormonal imbalance from chemicals, is one true cause of “chemical depression,” so avoiding them can be a critical decision in securing emotional health.
What’s more, the small amounts of glyphosate found in soy products interact with a phytoestrogen in soybeans, creating a reaction that has a more potent endocrine disrupting effect.
“Glyphosate-based herbicides are widely used for soybean cultivation, and our results also found that there was an additive estrogenic effect between glyphosate and genistein, a phytoestrogen in soybeans. However, these additive effects of glyphosate contamination in soybeans need further animal study.”
B. Artificial Coffee Creamers
This article could choose any number of processed foods to expose the toxicity of. Let’s just choose one: artificial coffee creamer.
This is an artificial creamer sold under the brand “Ambiance.”
It contains these chemicals.
“Corn syrup solids” are in the same vein of unhealthy as high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil is one of those health damaging soy products, dipotassium phosphate is a common additive to coffee creamer that is linked to health problems written about in academic papers, and the list goes on.
2. Body Care Products
A. Aluminum in Deodorant
Breast and skin cancer, Alzheimer’s, endocrine disruption, and other health problems are strongly linked to the use of “body care” products. For example, aluminum compounds in antiperspirant/deodorant are linked to Alzheimer’s. Endocrine disruptors are even ending up in water supplies.
“An extensive number of cosmetic products are applied topically on and around the human breast on a daily basis, often multiple times a day, including not only underarm anti-perspirant/deodorant products but also body lotions, body sprays, moisturising creams, breast firming/enhancing creams and suncare products. These products are not rinsed off but left on the skin, allowing for continuous dermal exposure, absorption and deposition into underlying tissues, which may be further increased by abrasions in the skin created by shaving [2,3,5–7]. The extent to which chemicals absorbed by this route escape metabolism remains unknown, but they would certainly escape the systemic metabolism to which orally derived chemicals would be subjected [5–7].”
“Aluminum-free deodorants should consist of essential oils and all natural ingredients. Aluminum free alone may not be enough as some aluminum-free deodorants are still high risk, according to the Environmental Working Group, and can contain chemicals like triclosan and propylene glycol. Triclosan is perhaps a more fierce endocrine disruptor than propylene glycol, so try to avoid it. This article contains a recipe for making your own deodorant using natural ingredients like baking soda and coconut oil.”
B. Chemical sunscreen can cause endocrine disruption and cancer
You may have heard of sunscreen actually causing skin cancer and hormone disruption.
Oxybenzone is a main ingredient in many sunscreens. Luckily there are alternatives.
“There are two ways that a sunscreen can protect the skin from sun damage: with a mineral barrier or a chemical one.
Mineral sunscreens typically include ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which create a physical barrier to protect the skin from the sun.
Chemical sunscreens use one or more chemicals including oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.”
In one case, a woman who blogged about the value of body care products and sunscreen actually ended up with skin cancer. An ABC headline reads: “Woman ‘Shocked’ to Develop Skin Cancer Despite Sunscreen Vigilance.”
“Annie Tomlin is an expert beauty editor who is known for telling her millions of readers about the importance of sunscreen, so when a red patch appeared on her hairline and wouldn’t go away, she knew something wasn’t right.
“As it grew and grew I thought, ‘this isn’t normal,’” she said.
A biopsy revealed that Tomlin had basal cell carcinoma. It’s the most common kind of skin cancer. Tomlin said she was “shocked” by the diagnosis in November.”I’m religious about sun protection. I wore it every day as a kid,” she said.”…
Glyphosate is the main chemical active in several brands of agricultural and corporate farming herbicides used in the growing fields; in GMO seed crop cultures; and in what’s called “preharvest staging” . That’s when the herbicide is sprayed several days [3 to 5 days] prior to crop harvest to “ensure” seed heads mature evenly. Some consider that process acts as a “desiccant.”
The more commonly-used herbicide is Roundup® manufactured by Monsanto. In GMO farming, there is Roundup Ready® seeds, which are totally different from heirloom or non-GMO seeds. One specific difference is GMO seeds have patents on them, meaning something has been done to modify the seed from the parent or original plant strain produced by Nature.
Recently on an Internet talk show, I heard a professor talking about the non-browning apple, i.e., the apple’s protein is turned off to make the GMO-non-browning apple not brown when cut and exposed to air, as a normal apple does.
Well, the question I, as a natural nutritionist, have is: If the protein (0.3 gram or 1% of Daily Value)  in the GMO non-browning apple is turned off, does that mean the apple protein is not functional within that GMO apple as a nutrient for human nutrition? Has a scientific nutritional analysis proven that factually one way or the other? Or does science indicate that protein is viable as human nutrition? Because, if not, that would make a real nutritional difference in the GMO non-browning apple!
Furthermore, what’s called the “equivalence factor” of GMO phoods really is this, in my opinion: GMO plants have ‘things’ either inserted or turned off or modified (allowing patents to be issued making food seeds/plants corporate property subject to legal redress) from original parent plants, therefore, GMOs are NOT equivalent to the original plant food, regardless of what GMO science claims!
The fact food crop seeds or plants have “patents” should be the prime exclusionary criterion difference, in my opinion, since historical and heirloom foods/seeds/plants did not, and do not, have patents! That’s why the U.S. FDA is out to lunch on GMO phood science, I say, and all GMO phoods legally must be labeled correctly to comply with truth in advertising laws in the USA.
Then there’s the inconvenient ‘byproduct’ of corporate farming; it’s glyphosate residues in processed foods, which has been confirmed scientifically by Food Democracy Now, The Detox Project and their 29-page report “Glyphosate: UNSAFE ON ANY PLATE”.
Below are two charts showing the glyphosate food testing results in parts per billion (ppb) FDN had performed, and the results are nothing short of stunning! Cheerios, which moms routinely give to toddlers as “finger food,” contain 1,125.3 ppb!
Going down the list we see what I call ‘corporate food sin’ in brand names like General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nabisco, PepsiCo, Campbell Soup Company, Little Debbie, Lucy’s, Whole Foods, and Back to Nature! The really sad news, in my opinion, is brand names originally associated with previously ‘healthy type food’ before corporate buy outs apparently have chemically contaminated brands like Annie’s and Kashi because ‘corporate-brands parents’ don’t keep tight control over chemical-free food processing and production, in my opinion.more…
While Nutella contains just five ingredients (palm oil, cocoa, hazelnuts, skimmed milk powder, and sugar), a whopping half of the stuff is sugar.
According to its nutritional label, a jar of Nutella has 21 grams of sugar per 37 grams of spread (two tablespoons), meaning that in reality more than half is sugar. Much of the rest is palm oil — solid fat some claim causes cancer.
The label also says that jars contain “over 50 hazelnuts per 13 oz. jar.”
Ferrero, the company that makes Nutella, provided this comment:
“One of Ferrero’s core nutritional beliefs is that small portion sizes help people to enjoy their favourite foods in moderation. The labelling on all our products enables consumers to make informed choices and helps ensure that Nutella can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.”
In other words, you may want to cut back on eating it from the jar by the spoon.