Thursday, July 29, 2010

Don't Drive Through the Drive-Thru

I'm a big fan of Dr. Michael Greger (M.D.). Every year he reads around 5,000 articles published in major medical and nutritional journals to uncover the latest research. He then summarizes the best of his findings in an annual DVD—tons of helpful information. This year's edition consists of two DVD's, he had so much to share.

Watching the latest edition this morning while riding my stationary bike, I was amazed at this finding: a major journal reported research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic on the content of fast-food hamburgers. That is, how much actual beef muscle tissue—what we think of as meat—is contained in fast-food burgers? They analyzed the burgers from eight national fast-food chains and found that eating them is roughly equivalent to eating a hot dog—the waste bin of the processed meat industry. The eight burgers were found to contain between two and 14 percent of actual beef muscle tissue. The rest of the burgers were made up of organ meat, blood vessels, nerves, fillers, and the like.

Fortunately, no brain or spinal tissue was found—that's been outlawed as I understand it, due to the prions in those organs that result in BSE (Mad Cow Disease).

I recall how my mother bought meat when I was small, from a local butcher shop in our small town in Alabama. She went into the shop, requested this or that cut, and we watched the butchers cut the meat off large sections of carcass. If she got hamburger, the raw meat portions were run through a meat grinder and wrapped. In other words, it was all meat. Even when a McDonalds opened in our town, it was years before I was allowed to eat there. My mother just didn't trust "hamburgers" that she couldn't see being prepared in front of her, I guess. (My other memory from those butcher shop visits was bringing home large wrapped portions of beef bones for our dogs, Sugar and Jet, to chew on. How they loved those bones!)

And this nut didn't fall far from the tree as I have returned to that same perspective. Not regarding meat, of course—that's off the menu regardless of its source. But I no longer put much trust in corporate food sources -- like fast-food or other chain or even standalone restaurants. It's too easy for food to be tampered with behind closed doors in the name of the bottom line. When I see advertising campaigns like the "Got Milk" ads featuring celebrities, I imagine the average consumer believes those ads are somehow health related when they have nothing to do with health, put profit. They have no idea of the gazillions of dollars from trade and lobbying organizations that go into producing those ads, purely for the purpose of selling a product that has been proven to have deleterious health effects.

Yes, the McDonald's jingle used to say, "Two ALL BEEF patties . . .," but knowing that "all beef" includes mostly the junk portions of the cow ought to be enough to cause anyone to avoid drive-thru's altogether.

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