If Hitler were a Food…


Here’s a great question that was posed to me yesterday… “If Adolf Hitler were a food, what food would he be?” 

I love this question so much because, after thinking about it, I realized it provided the ideal opportunity to teach about a dozen different topics in nutrition science. So, strap in, because you’re not only about to learn what food Adolf Hitler would be, but also about lipidology, cardiology, endocrinology, and the neuroscience of food addiction!

So, what food would Hilter be? Hitler would be a French fry!

To understand why, we need to investigate how a French fry, like Hilter, corrupts the human heart and mind. In other words, how does a French fry affect heart health and the brain?

Let’s start with heart health. A French fry is the perfect artery clogging food because it is a combination of carbohydrates and proceeded vegetable oil. Carbohydrates increase your blood sugar. This sugar attaches to your LDL cholesterol (1), making it vulnerable to a damaging process called “oxidation,” which is promoted by the presence of the proceeded vegetable oil. You see, despite sounding healthy, the “vegetable oils” restaurants used to deep-fry foods (usually soybean oil) are enriched in what are known as Omega-6 fats. Although a little Omega-6 fat is essential, it is also very highly reactive, particularly after it’s been processed and stripped of the antioxidants present in the whole food. What this ultimately means is that, in the blood, the Omega-6 fat is really good at damaging (oxidizing) the sugar-tagged LDL particle (2), turning it into the most artery clogging particle in the bloodstream, a small dense LDL (3). In this way, the French fry delivers a one-two punch combo. It both spikes blood sugar and floods the blood with reactive Omega-6 fat, such that LDL cholesterol is tagged with a sugar, oxidized, and becomes a heart attack waiting to happen!

At the same time the malicious fry is attaching your heart, it’s also taking over your brain. French fries have a very high “glycemic index.” This mean that for the same amount of carbohydrate, it spikes blood sugar more than other foods (4). This causes your pancreas to freak out and dump a ton of insulin into your bloodstream to drive down your blood sugar (5). This load of insulin drives so much sugar into your cells that it actually causes your blood sugar to drop below baseline (6). And if your pancreas freaking out was enough, now your brain freaks out because it’s worried about not having enough sugar, so it makes you hungry again! In fact, a super cool brain scan study conducted as Harvard demonstrated this mechanism. In this experiment, the researchers gave overweight men nearly identical meals on separate days. Both meals had the exact same number of calories, carbohydrates, fats, and protein, and tasted exactly the same. The only difference was in their glycemic indices. The low-glycemic meal had in index of 37 and the high-glycemic meal had an index of 84. Even though the participants couldn’t tell the difference between the meals, the researchers watched as the high-glycemic meal made the participants’ blood sugar spike up and then drop below baseline by 3-4 hours after the meal. When they looked into the participants’ brains with a technique called fMRI, they saw that, in every single case, the high-glycemic meal had made the nucleus accumbens, the “wanting center” of the brain, light up like a candle in a dark room (7). At the same time, the participants reported feeling ravenously hungry and ready for more food (8). Since this is the same phenomenon that happens in the brain when someone is addicted to cigarettes or cocaine, it is evidence of bona fide food addiction.

So, similar to Hitler corrupting the hearts and brainwashing the minds of the German people, a French fry, rich in carbohydrates, reactive Omega-6 fats, and with a high glycemic index, damages your LDL to promote atherosclerosis of your arteries while spiking and dropping your blood sugar to throw you on an insulin roller coaster and highjack the wanting center of your brain!

Maybe that’s why we are now fighting a world war against heart disease and obesity.

Link to research article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23803881 

Hand-drawn sketch courtesy of artist Sam. G Norwitz, Washington University in St. Louis. 

Nicholas Norwitz