“Headlines” is one of Jay Leno’s routines on The Tonight Show. While low on production values, it provides amusing typos, odd juxtapositions of text and inappropriate couplings from real notices and newspapers. The headlines are frequently very funny since, like fiction in general, authored comedy has to be plausible. There have been many other versions of the same idea including items in the New Yorker but Jay Leno’s audience rapport adds to the impact. Expert as he is, though, Jay seemed a little off guard when nobody laughed at the headline: “The Diabetes Discussion Group will meet at 10 AM right after the pancake breakfast.” It’s probably generational. After 30 or so years having the American Diabetes Association tell you that sugar is Ok as long as you “cover it with insulin” and that diabetes, a disease of carbohydrate intolerance, is best treated by adding carbohydrate and reducing fat, who knows what anybody believes.
One of the headlines on a previous show that did get a laugh said: “To increase gas mileage, drive less.” (If Jay only knew how much we spent to get the USDA committee to come up with the advice that if you want to lose weight, you should eat less).
“.. Have we eaten on the insane root,
That takes the reason prisoner?”
— William Shakespeare, Macbeth.
For tragic humor in the bizarre field of diabetes information, it is really hard to compete. About the same time as the headlines sequence on the Tonight Show, DiabetesHealth an organization and website that is intended to “investigate, inform, inspire” produced an inspiring investigation from the literature. The story is entitled “Maple Syrup – A Sweet Surprise.” You gotta’ read this:
“Meet the latest superfood: maple syrup. Wait a minute…maple syrup? The super-sugary stuff poured on pancakes and waffles and used to glaze hams? That maple syrup? That’s right. Researchers from the University of Rhode Island have discovered that the syrup-produced in the northeastern United States and Canada–contains numerous compounds with real health benefits.”
So how did people with diabetes fare on the maple syrup? Well, there were no people. Or animals. The researchers did not test the effect of consumed maple syrup but only chemically analyzed samples of the stuff.
“‘In our laboratory research, we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes, and bacterial illnesses,’ said Navindra Seeram, an assistant professor of pharmacognosy (the study of medicines derived from natural sources) at the university and the study’s lead author”
“Pharmacognosy,” incidentally, is the only English word correctly pronounced through the nose. The article indicates that “a paper describing their results will appear in the Journal of Functional Foods. Scientists hope that these discoveries could lead to innovative treatments as the beneficial substances are synthesized to create new kinds of medicine.” The article, however, is nothing if not circumspect:
“You might want to pause for a moment before rushing out and buying jug after jug of Canada’s finest maple syrup, though. It still contains plenty of sugar,…” In fact, by far the major ingredient in maple syrup is sucrose which, again, only has to be “covered” with insulin. So, with all those beneficial compounds, we will need less insulin per gram of sucrose with maple syrup, right? Would Jay Leno have gotten a laugh if the diabetes meeting followed the pancakes and maple syrup breakfast? How about if they were whole grain pancakes?
“If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow, and which will not…”
— William Shakespeare, Macbeth.
Not to be outdone, the American Diabetes Association website offers the lowdown on just how good grain is. Fiber, in general, is so good for you that you should be careful not to snarf it up too fast. As they point out, it is “important that you increase your fiber intake gradually, to prevent stomach irritation, and that you increase your intake of water and other liquids, to prevent constipation.” Doesn’t really sound all that healthy but foods with fiber “have a wealth of nutrition, containing many important vitamins and minerals.” Now, vitamin deficiency has always seemed to me to be the least of our nutritional problems but there’s more: “In fact,” using fact in its non-traditional meaning, fiber “may contain nutrients that haven’t even been discovered yet!” (their exclamation point). Not to belabor all the metaphors here, the ADA, long telling us that people with diabetes deserve to have their carbs, are surely offering pie in the sky.