Laboratory rats are ruining my life

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 1999, Debra Lo Guercio, all rights reserved

      I don't deny it: I have food issues. I know my diet isn't exactly mainstream. There aren't many of us who stir a few scoops of brewer's yeast into some V-8 and call it "breakfast." Nor do I have much company standing in the dairy aisle, studying the margarine tubs to find one without trans-fatty acids.

      Eating has become so complicated. Maybe I should just follow the advice my exasperated friends and family blurt out when I'm suffering over a menu, fretting about veggies that are sautéed in anything but olive oil, and asking for my salad dressing on the side and to please make sure to remove the skin from the chicken: Just shut up and eat a cheeseburger, for God's sake.

      Easy for you to say. Food leads to death! Haven't you read Prevention lately?

      That sinister little rag. Its headlines scream things like "Five Common Foods That Will Stop Your Heart!" and "Will Sugar Kill You In Your Sleep?" Read Prevention long enough and nothing will ever again pass through your lips without intense scrutiny.

      Over time though, I noticed a pattern. I saw through Prevention's veneer of helpful health advice. They announce a big breakthrough, like artichokes prevent breast cancer. Once that hits the stands, they get their researchers cracking to find out how artichokes can kill you. Just when you've adapted to eating your cereal with artichoke juice instead of milk and spreading artichoke paste on your bread instead of peanut butter, the latest Prevention arrives to inform you just in time that artichokes cause permanent kidney damage.

      From a marketing angle, it's genius. You must keep buying Prevention to stay current on all the foods that are lethal. Don't stop subscribing! Without us, you'll never know when that innocent-looking apple might release its poisons and liquefy your pancreas! Sure we'll renew your subscription for two more years.

      Ah, the sweet taste of ka-ching.

      Mind you, it's not just Prevention. Dueling experts sing their discordant songs wherever you look. Don't eat red meat. It's a heart attack on a plate. Eat red meat. High protein is where it's at. A glass of wine prevents cancer. Avoid wine, it causes cancer. One "expert" says load up on carbohydrates. Do so, warns another "expert," and you'll have hips like a pregnant buffalo.

      Take coffee. After years of unsuccessfully trying to wean myself from my beloved beverage, they've discovered that coffee prevents cancer. That is until the next generation of laboratory rats, force-fed nothing but espresso beans their entire lives, all die early painful deaths when their little tickers burst in their tiny chests, proving indisputably that caffeine causes heart disease.

      Maybe we'd live longer if we killed all the laboratory rats.

      With all the conflicting information heaped upon us by the scientific community, how can you keep it straight? Even if you could, you still can't win. Health boost one day, health bane the next. Grocery shopping has become a nightmare. Was it the green lentils or the brown ones that prevent colon cancer? No, no, it wasn't lentils. It was blueberries. Oh dear, I'm not even in the right aisle. Can I even buy blueberries in September? What if they're all out? Will my colon fill with poison and burst before morning if I don't find blueberries?

      It's a wonder we don't all end up perched on top of the potato bin in the produce section, waving a cucumber like a Jedi light saber, shrieking, "I'm not coming down until someone brings me blueberries! I must have my anti-oxidants!"

      Such could have been my fate, explaining to the men in white coats as they pluck me from atop the potatoes that it wasn't my fault, that the laboratory rats made me do it. But last week, my reality check finally got cashed.

      There I was on the couch, sipping my third cup of healthful, cancer-preventing black coffee, and CNN comes out with the list of 10 foods that will keep you healthy. Eat these foods and you'll live a long life, the latest research shows. Included on the list were - GASP -- eggs and chocolate.

      Great, just great. Two of my favorite foods, which I've avoided for decades in the interest of good health, and now I find out I should have been eating them all along. So. Eggs don't cause high cholesterol after all, they say. They're chock-full of vitamins. And chocolate is a powerful anti-oxidant they say. It prevents 37,000 forms of cancer. Make them a part of your daily diet they say.

      You mean I could have been enjoying lovely, warm, runny sunny-side-ups all these years for breakfast instead of that gritty, nasty, tomato-yeast crap I've been gulping down? I could have leaned back and savored sweet, thick Hershey's Kisses melting over my tongue instead of crunching on carrot sticks? Not only could have been but should have been?

      I want to hurt somebody.

      I want to slap a scientist. I want to snatch one of those wretched little laboratory rats from its wretched little cage and bite its wretched little head off. Who knows, maybe rat heads are high in fiber. When you see it in Prevention, remember you read it here first.

      Enough. I'm declaring my independence from nutritional "experts" and scientists and their little rats too. Every single copy of Prevention (yes, they're all carefully logged and stacked on my shelves) goes in the dumpster. Along with the brewer's yeast and the soy milk and the ginkgo biloba and the flaxseed.

      After that, I'm sitting down and doing something good for my body. I'm going to eat chocolate-covered scrambled eggs till I burst.