Eat to Live or Live to Eat?
By Maren Tarro
I’m so damn tired of science interfering with my food enjoyment. First it was laboratory-created additives. Then artificial colorings and hydrogenated fats came under fire for (surprise, surprise) causing obesity, heart disease and cancer. And then there’s the great egg debate. They’re bad, they’re good, yolks bad, whites good, and on and on.
As talk show hosts proclaimed each breakthrough, I ate, and drank, it up. I was thrilled to learn that red wine would keep my heart in tip-top shape and eating fish would make me a genius. I wasn’t as thrilled to find out I should only guzzle one eight-ounce serving a day. Or that due to mercury contamination, I should avoid some of my favorite fish. I replaced tuna with salmon, but I just couldn’t bring myself to open a $50 bottle for one measly glass. As I finished each bottle, I assured myself that a new study would emerge justifying my overindulgence.
There’s a good chance I’ll die suddenly of a massive coronary at 65, probably in the midst of boozing it up at my neighbor’s annual pig roast. Compared to the alternative, that doesn’t sound so bad.
Then science flip-flopped again. Now those eggheads claim that even a moderate half-glass of wine a day could increase my breast cancer risk by 30 percent. Not good news for someone whose glass is always more than half full. To top it off, those antioxidants I’ve been gorging on might actually kill me. So all that pomegranate juice and green tea was for nothing?
This barrage of studies and their eventual reversals makes me reconsider the consequences of eating solely for the purpose of living forever.
I'm wondering what these studies and statistics mean practically. Like, what does "30 percent increased risk" really mean? If my original chance of getting breast cancer is 10 percent, then a 30 percent increase only brings me to about a 13.3333 percent chance.
With a family history of diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s, I wondered: Is it worth it to live longer? Even if a carefully controlled diet helped me eliminate diabetes and heart disease, I still have Alzheimer’s to look forward to. If the foods I eat actually extended my years, what would those extra years be like?
Best-case scenario, I live to a ripe old age of 129 with some of my facilities intact, get my picture on The Today Show and a small mention in Guinness World Records. Worst-case, I’m 73, have no idea who or where I am, wear diapers and have another 30 years to look forward to because I boned up on free-radical-blasting vitamins and never ate cooked food.
So what’s the outlook if I stuff my gut with McFrench fries and icing-scribbled cupcakes? There’s a good chance I’ll die suddenly of a massive coronary at 65, probably in the midst of boozing it up at my neighbor’s annual pig roast. Compared to the alternative, that doesn’t sound so bad.
I don’t know how long I’ll live or what’s in store for me down the road, but why suffer at mealtime now only to suffer through indignity and remorse later?
If we rely on Oprah and co. to tell us how to eat, we’ll spend our lives staring into a bottomless cup of green tea, chasing a fountain of youth that isn’t there. If, instead, we eat responsibly and balance our nutritional wants and needs, we can enjoy our years without being slaves to science’s indecisiveness.
Given a choice between 60 savored years or 100 barely stomached, waiter, I’ll have the lobster bisque, a ribeye and a bottle of your finest.
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