Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sugar Highs

On January 11, the day Hostess Brands Inc announced it was back in bankruptcy, several people I know became bewildered and disoriented, as if they’d just seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Hostess, the maker of Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes, Hostess Fruit Pies, and Ding Dongs, announced this new bankruptcy less than three years after completing an earlier restructuring.

On the same day Hostess announced its bankruptcy, more than a few people reacted badly, including a man who fell into a deep depression when he accidentally dropped down a 17 foot hole while repairing a broken water pipe in Mexicali, Mexico.

Meanwhile across town, two sugar junkies—-my sister Roberta and my friend Caryn—– were threatened by their doctors to stop sweets because sugar is so harmful. Caryn, whose blood sugar level shot to over 500, insisted she always kept tabs on her glucose level using the inexpensive Costco testing kit that comes with a leech. Roberta, for whom French dressing is a beverage, was more despondent and tried strangling herself with salt water taffy.

Enter “Project Milkshake,” a four year study by the Oregon Research Institute and the perfect answer for guilt-free sugar indulgence. I discovered this jewel online and proposed that Roberta and Caryn apply to be participants. Scientists and rats are studying how people’s brains respond differently to food and whether, for example, neurons in the visual cortex determine if a corn dog should be eaten or used as an ear wipe. Best of all, participants would be given a chocolate milkshake, possibly several times.

Participants would be offered up to $365 if they completed various “tasks.” Not wanting to discourage Roberta and Caryn, I didn’t mention the various “tasks” included overnight fasts, urine sampling, saliva sampling, body composition testing, and brain scans.  There was also the disclosure that a participant might “experience a feeling of claustrophobia” from three sources: the plastic hood enclosed over the head for an energy use test; the Bod Pod, an upright egg-shaped, human-size device that measured changes in air volume while the participant sat inside, door closed; and finally, the MRIs.

Now many of my friends have shared heart-warming, mutual bonding stories of being rolled into a closed MRI and within a short time demanding to be liberated. I was confident I could put Caryn and Roberta at ease with this procedure by recommending several sure-fire coping devices I’ve used for routine closed-MRI visits: Mack’s Ear Plugs (if Mack wasn’t using them), a dark washcloth over the eyes to keep out magnetic rays, and 300 mg of Valium.

Caryn and Roberta also needed to appreciate that the Bod Pod was a better way to assess body composition than a hydrostatic (underwater) test such as I experienced years ago at an athletic club.

For that opportunity I wore a swimsuit and cap. I believe my swimsuit at the time was smaller than my cap. Mentally geared up, I met the personal trainer/technician who was to conduct the test. He had a whopping migraine, he said, and maybe a fever. I knew, considering his bravery, I had to go through with the test. Ahead of me were stairs leading to the top of a wooden structure that resembled an above-ground well with an attached chair suspended over water, like the Pilgrims’ dunking stool for blasphemers.

Since this was a time—i.e. pre-children—when I believed everything I was told, including the technician’s assertion that he controlled the safety of the test environment, I gamely allowed myself to be lowered into the well filled with warm water while sitting on a chair. (The warm water was sitting on the chair next to me.)

“Take a deep breath,” my captor said, “blow out all the air, and push yourself forward into the water. Sink down and stay down until you hear me bang on the sides.”   He said I’d be doing this several times. Now I was convinced he was hallucinating from his migraine.

When one is under water, holding what little breath is left and realizes this is the closest thing to drowning—waterboarding wasn’t yet approved for athletic clubs—the temptation is to pop up early from the water. So early, in fact, that lungs have been known to message the brain they need air now, and damn the short trip to the surface!

If this were a cartoon, the main character—- probably a cat—–would at this moment be swallowing the entire deep well of water. The “technician,” probably a mouse, would then jump repeatedly on the cat’s back, enabling the cat to eject 20,000 gallons of water back into the well.

Since I was not Sylvester, Felix or Garfield, I presented the passive technician a unique ten minute symphonic composition of fortissimo gasps, coughs, and choking.  When he calmly asked me if I wanted to try again, I vigorously shook my head “no,” which propelled two quarts of water out of my ears.

As it turned out, Roberta and Caryn did not have to be tested for body or brain composition. After further research, I discovered Project Milkshake participants were limited to 14-to-17 year old young women. I also read that some of these adolescent girls were shown pictures of chocolate milkshakes when they were in MRIs, while others were shown pictures of a glass of water. Similarly, some girls received chocolate milkshakes to drink, and others “a tasteless solution.”

On their website Oregon Research Institute reports Project Milkshake has been temporarily suspended after one of the scientists was discovered beaten to unconsciousness, apparently “by participants given a tasteless solution.”

Clearly we have one more scientific study of why sugar is so harmful.


Protecting Our Creepy Crawlies

There it was. I could hardly believe what I was reading online:

RON PAUL REVOLUTION- LEGALIZE THE CONSTITUTION LICE”                                                    (

I’d tried my utmost not to watch any more Republican debates. But from what my diehard political friends told me, no one, not Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, or George Stephanopolous asked the candidates about their stand on lice. Yet Ron Paul now proposes granting lice constitutional recognition.

We have no idea how other candidates stand on this issue because the moderators are more interested in softball questions to each candidate, like “What do you think about pulling the troops out of Afghanistan by July for the long 4th of July weekend and then putting them back in?” and “Is it your view, as it’s been reported, that when a private plane with Kim Kardashian reached 38,000 feet, her left butt cheek exploded?”

Let’s consider the facts:  Head lice have been found in the Judean and Negev deserts in Israel, carbon dated to 9,000 years.  Even the Bible refers to lice as one of the most dreaded Ten Plagues, along with boils and lawyers. In 1864 Louis (“the Louse”) Pasteur won a contest sponsored by the French Academy of Sciences, ridiculing Aristotle’s fourth century view that lice evolve spontaneously. Pasteur’s contribution to Lice Studies would later be supplanted by the myth that he invented the process of heating food to high temperatures, boiling the flavor out of it and immediately chilling it. In reality this process was originated and observed for generations by Jewish grandmothers.

Many, many centuries later, I am sitting at my desk in seventh grade class, when my math teacher, Mr. Byers, talks about the Threat of Lice in our school. He announces he must check everyone’s scalp.

He picks me first.

My head doesn’t itch and I’m sure I’m clean. I’d learned scrupulous hygiene long ago. I wouldn’t even put my head back against the velvety seats at the Moreland Theater, which was probably where my next-door neighbor and classmate Jimmy Krakorn picked up a case of ringworm. For the rest of the school year, Jimmy wore a flesh colored turban everyone knew as “The Ringworm Hat,” and when the hat came off, a white circular patch remained that continued to widen and widen until years later, when Jimmy was a Portland dentist, he was completely bald. I am sure it was from ringworm clearcutting his scalp. Since truth in advertising applies to dentists, I’ve always looked for his ad in the yellow pages and online to see his current photo and an honest caption: “Go to sleep for procedures. Gentle dentistry by The Ringworm Dentist.”

I lived in terror that one day I’d have to wear the Ringworm Hat, so I never scratched my head in case it itched, just rubbed it against a wall somewhere, like a deer growing nubby antlers. I also was careful not to chew my fingernails because that was how my sister acquired another grade school  memento known as pinworms. The worst thing about pinworms is being a parent and having to don a miner’s hat or carry a foot-long flashlight and go spelunking inside your child.

Having beaten ringworm and pinworms, I confidently ruled out lice.

Mr. Byers had just begun examining the nape of my neck using a small cuticle stick to section the hair when he pulled out a hair strand and held it up to the class. “This is what we’re looking for,” he said. He held the hair near my nose and used the cuticle stick to push a tiny white dot clinging to the strand.

“See?” he said triumphantly. “It won’t fall off.”

Like Moses parting the Red Sea, at that moment the class seemed to part, with me on one side and my classmates on the other, even though they were still sitting at their desks. I was ushered out and sent home. In everyone’s mind, I knew I was going to be the Lice Head.

The family doctor checked and concluded I didn’t have lice, ringworm, or pinworms. He said I was molting.

Would it matter that I was exonerated and readmitted to school? To kids, I’d always be the Lice Head. And I knew when I got older I’d have to disclose this information on my college and job applications. I’d have to reveal this to boys I’d be dating.  Insurance companies would eventually deny me medical coverage because they’d find evidence my grade school threw me out because of lice.

Even now I scratch my head over that event. Prudently I stop and rub my scalp against the wall instead.

According to the latest medical information, I should never have been thrown out of school for the alleged infestation. The Centers for Disease Control, National Association of School Nurses and American Academy of Pediatrics say this policy of sending kids home for suspected lice should absolutely be discontinued. In the opinion of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, “Head lice are not a health hazard or sign of poor hygiene.”

Dr.  Richard Pollack, a Harvard Entomologist, Parasitologist and Nit Finder scoffs at the rumor of super-lice.  “Overdiagnosis is a problem. And yes, I recognize there are reports of the lice treatment resistance, the pesticide resistance and the French resistance.”

For parents, the time was never better to get lice. Moms and Dads can now take their kids to lice removal salons with cute names like “LoveBugs,” “Hair Fairies,” “Licenders,” and “Lice Knowing You.” At the salon entire families enjoy hours of fine-tooth combing followed by a shampoos with non-toxic products to assure no lice are harmed. Most lice salons follow the advice of a study published in the Israel Medical Association Journal to use lice-repelling products made with essential oils like citronella, rosemary, eucalyptus and mocha almond fudge.

Lice has finally been redeemed as a childhood plague.  But the stigma remains:  A former staffer of Michelle Bachmann recently disparaged South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Mitt Romney because “right now Haley is only slightly more popular than head lice.”

However, Ron Paul, in line with his libertarian views, courageously insists the government’s policy should be hands off lice, and that lice should be a constitutionally protected class.  In the Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report, and the Ron Paul Investment Letter, Ron Paul praises the calm and lighthearted attitudes of scientists and doctors facing the absurd hysteria of parents with disgusting lice-infested children. He sets out his vision and the proposed constitutional amendment that protects lice from the time they are embryos.

Answering Republican critics who claim lice pose a threat to all nations, Ron Paul writes in his newsletters: “I would never ever go to war against lice. They just want to cohabit with humans peacefully.”

[Editor’s note: Pressed recently about the proposed lice constitutional amendment and the contents of Ron Paul newsletters with his statements supporting lice, Ron Paul denied direct involvement:

“I didn’t write these statements. I disavow them. That’s it. And if I wrote them, they were taken out of context. When it comes to lice, I am not a racist. Madonna, Shakira, and British Prime Minister David Cameron had lice. So did Al Pacino. But I support all of them to shampoo and fine comb their hearts out to get rid of the damned things.

“And what was that about Israel’s study of essential oils? We should have nothing to do with Israel, oil or no oil.”]