Last Saturday night, I voluntarily shortened my life by 36 minutes. Some of you, who follow the news, and took note of the title of this column, may know what I’m talking about. I’ll tell you what I did. While at a football game, I ate a hot dog.
That single eating choice cost me 36 minutes off my life span time. Those are the minutes it takes me to pop a bag of microwave popcorn, make a chocolate ice cream Mountain Dew Code Red soda float, and watch a re-run episode of Jeopardy.
Where do I get this information? – from a University of Michigan study published in the journal Nature Food. The study is called “Global Burden of Disease.” The researchers looked at 5,853 foods in the U.S. diet and somehow computed the effects in minutes of healthy life gained or lost.
Guess what was considered the unhealthiest food on the list? Of course, it was the hot dog! What was the highest ranked food? I wouldn’t have guessed it, but I’m glad for what it is – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. By the study’s results, the PB&J sandwich could add 33 minutes to one’s life.
As I ate my hot dog Saturday night, I felt minutes of my life swirling down the drain. But I didn’t care. A good hot dog smothered in the basics of ketchup, mustard and pickle relish is hard to beat at a ball game.
When I say a “good hot dog,” I know that to some people that is a contradiction in terms. I have friends, who are not vegetarians of any kind, who would no more put a hot dog in their mouth than they would a burning chunk of lava. They consider hot dogs unfit for human consumption and get the willies thinking about eating such a thing.
Enter Joey Chestnut. I looked him up. Those of you who are fans of “competitive eating” (this is a real thing) would know of Joey. He is a 14-time champion winner of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. This contest takes place on the 4th of July on Coney Island and is televised by ESPN.
Last time out, Joey broke his own record by eating 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes. He has eaten an estimated 19,200 hot dogs over 16 years. Using the new study’s formula, he’s lost 1 year and 15 minutes off his life. He is considered by Major League Eating as “the greatest of all time.”
He competes in foods other than hot dogs. He has won the Hooter’s Worldwide Wing Eating contest several times. He eats chili and bratwursts competitively. There are YouTube videos of him eating. I don’t recommend watching them. But he does seem like a nice guy. I like this quote from Joey, “The only way I can continue doing competitive eating is by being healthy.”
Before any of us get too worked up over all this math on minutes gained or minutes lost of our lives, I think there are other things to consider. I agree with Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and public health at New York University.
She wonders about the accuracy of looking at foods in this way. She says, “Changing a diet to include or exclude any one food is unlikely to make much difference – it’s dietary (and lifestyle) patterns that count.”
My takeaway from all of this is that I’m going to enjoy my occasional hot dog at ball games. I’m also going to reallllly enjoy my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
And if I decide to enter the world of competitive eating, my specialty will be ice cream. It’s the only food that I eat faster than my wife, so she says.
We stopped at the Big Red Barn in Santaquin last week on the way home from a medical procedure for my knee. I was a “good boy” when I endured the uncomfortable moments of extracting bone marrow from my hip for injection into my knee.
I used the word “uncomfortable.” That word would be a high order euphemism in this case. It was downright painful and hurt like the dickens. (That might be a story for another time)
So anyway, my wife felt like I deserved a reward. I had key lime pie ice cream at the “Barn.” I recommend it. I’ve been using ice cream for “medicinal purposes” successfully, in my own psychological way, for most of my life. And, you know what? – hot dogs can be good medicine too. — Merrill