25 November 2008

I Lofth-t My Withsdom Teeff

Latht Thurthsday I had my withdumm teeffth pulled. It really thsucked. Over the weekend I deffeloped a condithun called "Dry Thocket," altho known ath Alfeolarr Osthteitith, which ith Latin for "My Jaw Feelth Like itffth going to EFFING EXPLODE" and ith really painful. Needlefth to fthay, I haven'th been running mufthch at all. Parthenn is really anxthhous to go outfthide in the thnow and play. Poor guy.

So without running I've had more time to A) Pop Vicodin like they're TicTacs to get me through the nights, and B) Read more of a fascinating book: The Omnivore's Dilemma. Thus far (I'm through about half of the book), favorite part discussed just how much of our "American Diet" is corn-based. Through government subsidies and industrial innovation, the simple crop of "corn" has been broken down and re-structured into countless different substances, from carboyhydrates to proteins to fats. Take this example (Reading time is 4 minutes, and I promise it's worth it! It will give you another reason to avoid fast food, just in case you needed one):

One can break down food into three main groups: Fats/Oils, Proteins, and Carbs. When looking at the structural makeup of a Fat or Oil, you'll see a LOT of "C" notations, which stands for Carbon. Much like a train is made up of indivual cars, Proteins are made up of individual pieces called Amino Acids. The centerpiece of every amino acid is...you guessed it...a Carbon atom (in the image shown here, the top row shows two Amino Acids combined to form a "dipeptide", which are then combined over and over again to form a "protein.") And then there are "CARBO-hydrates, which are combinations of Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. Obviously the center of these compounds is Carbon.

So what?

Well, Carbon is an interesting element in the fact that it has a LOT of isotopes (variations in the structure of the element). All of the isotopes are considered "Carbon," but they all are a little different and can therefore be seperated and counted...kinda like you could take all automobiles with "Ford" on them and divide them up into trucks, SUV's, compact cars, and so on. Make sense?

The ability to identify different types of Carbon is useful because fancy shmancy scientists can use a fancy shmancy machine called a "Spectrometer" to count the various number of each isotope of carbon found in a substance. Carbon that comes from Corn is almost all the same isotope, so when it appears, the scientist can infer how much of the overall carbon total in the substance being investigated originated in a corn kernel. Makes sense? (When I tried to explain this to Ellie, she simply replied, "Oh, so it's magic." In a word, yes.)

So anyway, for those STILL reading, the author of the book took some pretty standard McDonald's food items and gave them to one of the aforementioned fancy shmancy scientists, who ran them through an aformentioned fancy shmancy spectrometer to see how MUCH of the carbon in the foods came originally from corn. Remember, as mentioned above, the backbone of proteins, fats, AND carbs is Carbon. And where did the majority of the "backbone" of McDonald's food come from? Take a looksy:

Diet Coke: 100%
Milk Shake: 78%
Salad Dressing: 65%
Chicken Nuggets: 56%
Cheeseburger: 52%
French Fries: 23%

I get very strong cravings for McDonald's occasionally. But after eating it, I still feel hungry, and it never seems to be "filling," but is always "regrettable." No wonder--I'm practically eating a couple cans of corn and little else. This explains why the food doesn't really taste like much yet always gets eaten very fast. As the author puts it, "you eat more and eat more quickly, hoping somehow to catch up to the original idea of a cheeseburger or French fry as it retreats over the horizon. And so it goes, bite after bite, until you feel not satisfied exactly, but simply, regrettably, full."

I highly recommend this book to everyone--it is really easy to read and is an amazing look into why we eat what we do, and, more importantly, where it really comes from.


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I was gonna make some kind of snarky wisdom teeth comment along the lines of "But can you really claim to've ever had the quality those teeth imply they impart given that kick sequence in your GH video?" ... but now I won't say that because the write up you give The Omnivore's Dilemma would make any questioning of your wisdom seem stooopud.

This post. But there will be more posts. And I'm saving that insult for then. [gq puts that particular arrow back in his quiver ... for now.]

I saw the author of this book on either TDS or The Colbert Report. The book does look interesting. So little of what we eat, when we eat processed food, really is what it says it is ...

I must put a hold on this book at my library ... right ... NOW!

Jess said...

I've heard of the book, but never actually read it. Sounds interesting.

Good luck with those dry sockets -- I had that too when I had my wisdom teeth out.

Viper said...

Sorry about the teeth. A good whiskey will help clean the wound and numb the pain (after some initial burning). And I imagine it'll help wet the socket ... or is that whet?

At any rate, thanks for the reading suggestion. Have a good thanksgiving.

bill carter said...

HI Nic

This is such a great post and something that EVERYBODY should read. We runners as a group tend to eat pretty well and I honestly can't tell you the last time I had a McAnything. But there is one right next to my office and there is alway a huge line for the drive thru so they must be appealing to somebody.

Sorry to hear about the ankle and the dry socket. Donna got one of those when she had her's done and thank God for the Vic RICE for the ankle, but you already knew that as a doc.

Best of luck with everything and have a great turkey day.

Vava said...

I still have my wisdom teeth, but little wisdom to show for it - what gives?

And on the food front, I totally agree. Although I've never read this book my wife has (on top of many others) that basically come to the same conclusion - processed food is the root cause of pretty much every adult health problem that we see today. I guess that means that when Homer wrapped a piece of bacon around a stick of butter he was being healthy since those aren't "processed"?

Hope you feel better soon!

WynnMan said...

Good stuff glad we have the same taste in books. It is indeed a great book as are the rest of his novels. Hope you can make it to Chippewa 50km this year. It will be stellar romp through the northwoods once again. Hopefully no snow as epic as it was.

Nitmos said...

Now this is a book I might enjoy. I need to be scared straight from fast food. Why doesn't a big guy with tattoos and humiliating gang rape stories travel to high schools to scare kids into a good diet like he did to keep keeps off drugs? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.


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