Jack LaLanne, who died in 2011 at age 96, was well known for his muscular physique and feats of strength, was regarded by many as “The Godfather Of Fitness.” Arnold Schwarznenegger, who at age 21, was badly beaten in an informal contest by LaLane, who was age 54 at the time, exclaimed,”That Jack LaLane is an animal.” When LaLane died, Schwarzenegger is credited as saying, “That LaLane is an apostle for fitness, who has inspired billions all over the world to live healthier lives.”
LaLane is quoted saying that until he was 16 he was a “sugarholic” and a “junk food junkie,” who had behavioral problems, but turned his life around after listening to a public lecture on the benefits of good nutrition. Herculean body-builder and actor Steve Reeves was inspired by LaLane. He said he was convinced by LaLanne to build his own muscular physique while keeping a slim waist.
I haven’t read any of LaLane’s books on nutrition, but I suspect he would, as many health experts have, warned against excessive consumption of sugary drinks. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that sugary drinks increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic disorders. It states that a study of 40,000 men who drink one, two, or more sugary drinks daily have a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who rarely do. Men who drink an average of one can of a sugary drink per have a 20 percent greater risk of having a heart attack or dying from a heart attack than those who rarely drink them. Related studies revealed a similarly sugary drink-heart disease risk in women.
I wonder how LaLane, if he were alive, would react to the latest revelations regarding the health risks of eating sausage, bacon, ham, hot dogs, and other processed meats? The November 9 issue of “Time” contains a lengthy article titled “The War on Delicious” written by Peter Kluger. He defines processed meat as meat that has been smoked, salted, or changed by any other process to enhance its flavor or make it last longer. In addition to those mentioned above, he includes smoked turkey, bologna, corned beef, pepperoni, beef jerky, and chicken nuggets. All these and the aforementioned are considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be Group 1 carcinogens, meaning that the quality of evidence firmly links them to cancer. Also in this group are cigarettes.
The WHO lists redmeat, which includes beef, lamb, veal, pork, horse, and mutton as Group 2A, a category that includes DDT and the insecticide malathion, substances believed, but not yet proven to cause cancer. Meats from deer, elk, and moose are not mentioned, but presumably they would be in the Group 2A category because they are “types of mammalian muscle meat.” The author also fails to list meat from rabbits or squirrels, which are also mammals.
The WHO report states, “According to most recent estimates, about 34,000 cancer deaths worldwide per year are attributable to diets high in processed meat, and possibly 50,000 are similarly attributable to red meat.” Compared to an estimated one million tobacco-related cancer deaths each year, these numbers seem low, Kluger notes.
Cancer concerns associated with processed and red meat are largely associated with risks of colorectal cancer, but WHO presumes that cancers of the stomach, prostate, and pancreas are also causes of concern.
Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Auburn University. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.