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    Slim Jim: The Last Thing Any “Guy” Needs

    Burger King had its “I Am Man” campaign a few years ago. Dr. Pepper recently marketed a soft drink with ‘manly’ artificial sweeteners. Now, ConAgra has taken its Slim Jim product to new heights of unbridled testosterone with Slim Jim Dare (“made from stuff guys need”).

    The commercials revolve around the problem of “male spice loss”, for which a Slim Jim Dare is the proposed cure. We see the Slim Jim team and its “manbulance” rescue a man who ordered a salad, one who is driven around in a scooter by his girlfriend, and others caught ironing their jeans, among other “temporary lapses of judgment.”

    While Slim Jim may save men from stepping outside the rigid societal confines of masculinity, it can’t say the same about the risk for several cancers (mainly that of the colon, stomach, and pancreas).

    This is the ingredient list for Slim Jim Dare:

    Beef, Mechanically Separated Chicken, Water, Textured Soy Protein Concentrate, Salt, Corn Syrup, Less Than 2% of: Habanero Chili Pepper, Flavorings, Dextrose, Paprika and Paprika Extractives, Hydrolyzed Corn and Soy Protein and Wheat Gluten, Mono and Diglycerides, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Sodium Nitrite

    In case you’re wondering, the USDA defines mechanically separated chicken as, “a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue through a sieve”; go to 0:37 of this video to see it in action, complete with awkward narration and oddly peppy techno music.

    Two ingredients here are of of concern: beef and sodium nitrite (though, of course, genetically-modified corn and soy byproducts are also unsettling).

    As far as red meat goes, one large European epidemiological study found that “the people who ate the most red meat (about 5 ounces a day or more) were about a third more likely to develop colon cancer than those who ate the least red meat (less than an ounce a day on average).”  Despite the meat industry’s hair-trigger response that warnings of a link between meat and colon cancer risk are ‘activist propaganda’ by vegetarian groups, organizations like the World Cancer Research Fund echo the warnings.

    Sodium nitrite is also bad news (so much so that while the American Institute for Cancer Research advises people limit consumption of red meat, they call for outright avoidance when it comes to processed meats).

    Although some vegetables naturally contain sodium nitrite, they are not a concern since many of the healthful compounds in vegetables strongly mitigate the effects of sodium nitrite (and, in some cases, interact with it in such a way that turns it into a beneficial compound). Much like one can not equate whole fruit and soda based on sugar content, the same goes for sodium nitrite in processed meats versus vegetables.

    Sticks and stones may break your bones, but Slim Jims are bad news all around.



    1. Alex said on October 3rd, 2011

      Just slightly off topic, there’s this (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21471821) recent study (corroborated by some other research) that demonstrates improved exercise performance with ingestion of beet juice – noted for its high nitrate content. Notably, results haven’t been repeated with isolated supplementation. That is, the juice works; nitrate powder does not.

    2. Andy Bellatti said on October 3rd, 2011

      Thanks. Studies like these are yet another example of why a whole-food way of eating is key. This reminds me of the headlines a few years ago that vitamin E was worthless for heart health. In actuality, the research showed that vitamin E supplementation didn’t have much of an effect. However, foods that naturally contain vitamin E are another story. Some nutrients (like vitamin E) need to work within their respective food matrices to offer benefits.

    3. J in VA said on October 9th, 2011

      I find all the “don’t eat red meat” advice frustrating–some day they will separate those eating CAFO red meat from those eating grass fed beef (and venison, etc…)Then maybe we’ll know/see the difference. All red meat is NOT the same.

      Secondly, if you want to be manly, you’ll avoid all those phytoestrogens in soy. Last time I checked, most men don’t want or need more estrogen!! You thyroid will thank you too! Check out Dr Kaayla Daniel’s The Real Soy Story to learn more.

    4. Andy Bellatti said on October 9th, 2011


      Although grass-fed organic beef and CAFO corn-fed beef do offer different nutritional profiles, the worrisome compounds in red meat are present in both (in the same way that a conventional apple and an organic apple both offer fiber, despite other differences in pesticide loads and environmental impact). For example, Heterocyclic Amines in grilled meat form regardless of how the meat is raised. Similarly, all red meat — no matter what the cow ate during its life — lacks fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.

      Although soy is often pointed to as a food men should avoid because of phytoestrogens, it is interesting that conventional dairy is left out of the equation. See this piece I penned for vegan.com for information on that: http://vegan.com/blog/2011/07/28/andy-bellatti-on-soy-vs-dairy-risk/

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