What would life be without a cheeseburger?

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I suggest you read this in a hurry because I am writing it in a hurry and hoping you and I can get to the finish at the same time before one of us kicks the bucket. It seems life is short and getting shorter.

I recently read a piece in the New York Times (Yes, I do occasionally sneak a peek to see what they are up to. But I don’t inhale.) that says Americans aren’t living as long as we used to. Compared to other wealthy countries, the report says 1 in 2 deaths under age 65 years would have been avoided if the U.S. had the mortality rates of other wealthy nations.

In comparison to the other countries, the report says that not only has the life expectancy in the U.S. been dropping since 1980, and has declined to the lowest level since 1996. You see why I want us to hurry through this column? Time’s a-wastin’!

The 18 wealthy nations to which we are compared are your usual suspects. They include, among others: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Iceland. Iceland? I didn’t know they were a wealthy nation because I didn’t know anybody lived there, let alone rich people, I need to get out more often.

Anyway, I was hoping to dig deeper into the Times’ report on why you and I are not living as long as the good folks of Kópavogur and Mosfellsbær but it contains a lot of big words and a lot of numbers and a bunch of footnotes. I felt like I couldn’t spare the time to try and decipher the results because I think what it is saying is there is no time to spare.

Just as I was about to give up on the idea of why we are not living longer and instead write about how to properly organize a sock drawer, what to my wondering eyes should appear: The answer! And it didn’t come from the New York Times, either. It came from a group called DrugGenius.com, who says they are a provider of “reliable, evidence-based information about prescription medications.”

I’m not sure what all of that means, either, but at least their report didn’t have a lot of big words and footnotes. But what it did have was an answer so obvious I wonder how I could have missed it. It’s our cuisine. Fast foods. And we are willing to die for it.

DrugGenius.com said they surveyed 3,222 Americans and asked the respondents hypothetically how many years of their lives they would be willing to forgo if it meant they could continue to eat unhealthily. The answer was – a bunch, as long as they can keep eating burritos.

When asked what kind of fast food they believe has the greatest health benefits, 45% of those surveyed said a foot-long sandwich had the most health benefits (probably because of the lettuce); 20% thought it was tacos or burritos. Eleven percent said cheesy, meat-topped pizza. Eight percent thought a bucket of fried chicken wings and the same number believed it to be burgers and fries. I’m hungry already.

The survey also revealed that we Georgians would give up 5 years of our life in order to be able to continue eating fast food. Why is that a surprise? Would you want to add years to your life eating broccoli and asparagus?

By the way, 51% of Georgians said they totally ignore all those studies that warn of the health risks of eating too much fast-food. Take that, New York Times and pass the fried pies.

The DrugGenius.com survey indicates that a majority of respondents (60%) said if they had to choose between quitting alcohol or giving up fast foods for the rest of their life, they would rather give up alcohol. What we won’t do for a hot dog.

Despite the dire prediction from the New York Times report on longevity (or lack thereof), the good news is that I made it all the way to the bottom of the column and I am still here. I presume you are, as well.

As for giving up 5 years of our lives for a double cheeseburger with fries and a chocolate shake, let’s keep it in perspective. We may not live as long as Icelanders, but at least we don’t have to sit down to a meal of singed sheep heads, black pudding and broiled Puffin. God Bless the USA.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.

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