Blocked Pipes? Check for a Big Mac Blockage
Pipes and arteries have one definite thing in common: They don’t work right when they’re stopped up. In Dorval, a municipality in Montreal, officials discovered that the local McDonald’s was discharging grease into the sewers. The sewers became clogged and Dorval jumped into action, hiring a contractor to fix the damage. They also filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s for the cleanup costs. Blocked sewers are a serious problem, but so are clogged arteries.
McDonald’s was the most-visited business in March in the United States. Nearly half of Americans bought something from under those golden arches. And nearly half of Americans ingested the same type of grease that congested Dorval’s sewers.
The saturated fat and cholesterol in many McDonald’s products can lead to heart disease, filling arteries with a hard white plaque and inhibiting the flow of blood. Sometimes fast-food customers need to find their own “contractor” to come in and fix the damage with bypass surgery. The cleanup costs are paid initially by insurance companies, with consumers footing the bill through raised rates and premiums.
Even though fast food is easy, cheap, and everywhere, we’re ultimately responsible for what we put down our tubes. There is no legal recourse for getting McDonald’s to reimburse patients for the arteries clogged by their Big Macs and Egg McMuffins. (And fast food doesn’t only affect hearts—the low-fiber content of most McDonald’s meals can result in other blocked plumbing, digestively speaking.)
You can bet that Dorval won’t let anymore grease into their sewers, and neither should we.
Gov. Chris Christie: Try Plant-Based Postop Prescription
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie just announced that he underwent weight-loss surgery earlier this year. Many people who struggle with obesity make the same difficult decision. I empathize with Gov. Christie’s desire to improve his health for himself, his family, and his constituents. In the letter below, I offer him postoperative advice on how a plant-based diet can help him maintain a healthful lifestyle. The same advice can also help those suffering from obesity forgo weight-loss surgery.
May 9, 2013
Gov. Chris Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Gov. Christie:
I understand that you’ve had a procedure to help your weight, and I want to congratulate you on this step. I also wanted to see if I could encourage you to consider some important dietary changes that we have been studying here in our NIH-funded research. We have found that a plant-based diet is remarkably effective in accelerating weight loss and making it permanent. Moreover, we have developed ways to make the transition easy.
As you may know, President Bill Clinton not only lost weight after adopting a low-fat vegan diet, he improved his heart health. Many people who follow a diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes experience significant health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, improved cholesterol, increased energy, and decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Plant-based diets can also help prevent and reverse lifestyle diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
To help you try this new healthful way of eating for three weeks, I’ve enclosed a copy of my book 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart. This time frame is long enough to see results but short enough to make it approachable.
My nonprofit organization, the Physicians Committee, also partners with physicians, dietitians, and health educators to promote healthful lifestyles and food choices. Please let me know if you would like me to send updates about our nutrition education programs or about the latest research in diet and health.
I am also more than happy to work with you and your family on customized meal plans.
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
New York Elementary School Swaps Hot Dogs for Hummus
School cafeterias have the power to not only improve students’ test scores, attention, and mental focus—but also students’ overall health and well-being. Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee, applauds New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley for the city’s most recent public health initiative: meatless meals in New York City Public School 244. All schools should follow the Active Learning Elementary School’s lead in combating lifestyle disease with nutritious plant-based entrees. Here is the letter she sent to Commissioner Farley urging him to promote the program in other city schools:
May 6, 2013
Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H.
Commissioner of Health
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
125 Worth St.
New York, NY 10013
Dear Dr. Farley:
Thank you for launching nutrition initiatives in New York City’s food establishments—from calorie labels and trans fat limits to sodium reduction pledges—that promote health and longevity. Perhaps the most serious, but more mundane threat of our time is what is being served in the lunch line.
The Active Learning Elementary School, Public School 244, and the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, is taking your lead by purging meat and dishing out healthful plant-based menu options in school lunch lines. As a dietitian, I’m delighted to hear the news. I’m also cautiously optimistic about the future of school lunches.
Science shows fiber-rich, plant-based foods are an integral part of combating obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and various forms of cancer. According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in four New York adults consumes the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Introducing vegetarian options to city residents at a young age promotes healthful habits that last a lifetime—and influence generations to come.
The shift toward healthful school lunches may be the driving force that is helping to curb childhood obesity rates; let’s be sure these rates continue to decline. Clinicians at the nonprofit Physicians Committee hope to make an even bigger dent in years to come but look to city officials and influential leaders, like you, to spread the word. Resources for parents, food service directors, and principals are enclosed.
This information has proved helpful to others, and we hope you not only share it with schools and institutions in your city, but encourage schools to follow the lead of PS 244. Please let me know if you would like us to create custom meal plans and educational components to advance healthful nutrition in New York City Public Schools.
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.
Director of Nutrition Education
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine