Cheeseburger, Fries, and a Side of Statin Drugs?

24 08 2010

It really says something about our ability to educate ourselves about food when we start talking about serving the antidote to junk foods in pill form right in the restaurant.

At the beginning of August, researchers from Imperial College of London published a study in The American Journal of Cardiology with the conclusion that handing out statins with a cheeseburger could somehow balance out the cholesterol-raising effects of the food.

A little over a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced recommendations to prescribe cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to obese children as young as eight.

Have we really fallen so far?

The researchers seem to have taken an ultra-realistic view, assuming that people will eat this food by the ton no matter what anyone says, so we might as well throw some drugs in to try and keep the inevitable cholesterol crisis at bay. Never mind that this scheme would probably make people feel even freer to eat more burgers and fries, bringing all the non-cholesterol health problems that come with, like, say, obesity and diabetes.

Let’s not forget, that when you hear those commercials for statin drugs, they have to list some pretty ugly side effects, starting with unexplained muscle pain and weakness, caused by the breakdown of muscle and tissue, which overload the kidneys and can lead to fatal kidney failure. Then there is weakness, mental confusion, memory loss and neuropathy, a nerve disorder that causes all sorts of pains in the body.

YUM! Maybe making people watch a tape loop of the side effects of both the food and the drugs as they stand in line would scare some consumers away from even the yummiest of greaseburgers.

We have been inching toward bringing healthier food to the masses, with rules to make restaurants list nutrition info for foods, and many of the worst fast food places are offering decent options to meet demands of their customer base. For what it is worth, McD’s did bring in some yogurt parfaits and Newmans dressing on some salads. Which are undoubtedly a tiny fraction of sales.

Maybe, instead of adding drugs and charging more for the offending food, whole grain buns and side salads should come with every burger. Perhaps every time someone orders a cheeseburger, they are offered a spinach pie, or a triple veggie burger, or a copy of the film, Supersize Me?

The idea of adding drugs to food is silly, and it is highly unlikely that it would ever happen. If anything, this just shows how difficult these problems are to solve. Cheap, accessible food has only boomed in the recession, and we can expect a wave of poor health, as stressed, junk eating people start clogging and having cardio-events.

I’m counting on the power of celebrity, with folks like Michelle Obama, Jamie Oliver, and Mario Batali promoting education about healthy eating.

Folks like me have been writing, teaching and talking about eating right for years and years, and it will take millions more of us to keep the faith and carry on.

But I am still not ready to suggest adding drugs to our feed, not yet.

Ask me later.

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