Stalking Points Memo

by Al Pastor

No. 1 “Does chewing gum make you fat? (and 5 other theories)

The question was recently posed by the Guardian. Not so concerned with gum-related calories, years ago I’d stumbled upon and wrote about research highlighting another of the posited theories, notably awareness and even heightened intelligence through chewing. The article repeated findings long confirmed, if still not especially well-publicized.

Brain scans found that chewing gum activated the hippocampus (the part responsible for memory) – a finding that was corroborated elsewhere. Scientists have also found that it can improve alertness and even reduce stress.

Not only do I walk and chew gum, I walk fairways often exercising the old hippocampus in hopes of engaging the old bean. Often, sadly, I forget having stowed a stick in the back pocket of my baseball pants where, caught up in the action, it invariably gathers dirt, melts into the paper, goes stale and takes a pounding through the washer. Perhaps the dosage needs reconsidering.

No. 2: Nuts to you!

The news cycle hardly gave this a filament’s notice but those of you well known to grocery store security cameras for what is decorously referred to as “snacking” (and will someday, once elected, become a Class C misdemeanor) will no doubt have noticed the most recent excitement among nutters. My friends hadn’t heard so here is a brief of Jane Brody’s assessment from her “Personal Health” column in the New York Times, entitled “Snacking Your Way to Better Health.”

The more often nuts were consumed, the less likely participants were to die of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, and not because nut eaters succumbed to other diseases. Their death rate from any cause was lower during the years they were followed. (The nuts in question were pistachios, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts and walnuts.)

Those who ate nuts seven or more times a week were 20 percent less likely to die from 1980 to 2010; even among those who consumed nuts less often than once a week, the death rate was 11 percent lower than for those who did not eat them.

I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t nuts fattening? Yes, an ounce of nuts has 160 to 200 calories, nearly 80 percent from fat.

But in study after study, the more often people ate nuts, the leaner they tended to be.

Oh, Superman!

Oh, Superman!

 No. 3 “…basically worse than pet food.”

A minor league baseball trainer of my acquaintance was hardly surprised to learn that basketball great Dwight Howard was snacking his way to horrible health, abusing himself with a regular infusion of junk. He appears to have been the only one surprised at his declining performance. With any luck his agent is now on the phone seeking a Hershey’s endorsement, although Howard and the Lakers team appears on their way to turning a corner, if not their record.

From CBS News:

It turned out that Howard was consuming the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in the form of candy and soda — not to mention the additional sugar his body was making out of all the empty starches he was eating.

We knew Dwight had a sugar-intake issue,” said Luke Shanahan [co-author of Deep Nutrition] whose Masters in Fine Arts from the world-renowned Iowa Writers Workshop has served him well in his role as the program’s architect and co-pilot. “We just didn’t know how bad it was.”

It was bad. At [Napa Valley doctor and nutritionist] Cate Shanahan’s request, Howard had undergone a blood screening that revealed a frighteningly pathological profile. His glucose readings were through the roof, much higher than they should have been for a ripped, 27-year-old professional athlete who used to call himself Superman.

On working with the Lakers: “We’re making the shift from basically worse than pet food to actual food,” Cate Shanahan said. “We’re a country running on empty sugar, processed foods and vegetable oils,” Luke Shanahan said. “… The first step is to get vegetable oils out of your life and replace empty starches with nutrient-dense food.” From: Nutrition in the NBA: Part I: Lessons learned in L.A. help Howard’s career

 No. 4: Jimi Hendrix “Starting at Zero”

"While I'm playing I don't think about it. I just lay out there and jam."

“While I’m playing I don’t think about it. I just lay out there and jam.”

An intimidating, remote figure, it was a most pleasant surprise to bump into an introspective Jimi Hendrix. Here he reflects on some of his earliest, private moments. It made for astonishing reading. To think one so self-assured on stage once had to hide behind the curtain while performing.

I remember my first gig was at an armoury, a National Guard place, and we earned 35 cents apiece and three hamburgers. It was so hard for me at first. I knew about three songs, and when it was time for us to play onstage I was all shaky, so I had to play behind the curtains. I just couldn’t get up in front. And then you get so very discouraged. You hear different bands playing around you, and the guitar player always seems like he’s so much better than you are. Most people give up at this point, but it’s best not to. Just keep on, just keep on. Sometimes you are going to be so frustrated you’ll hate the guitar, but all of this is just a part of learning. If you stick with it you’re going to be rewarded. If you’re very stubborn you can make it.

On, for want of a better word, we’ll call the Zone:

You see, onstage I forget everything, even the pain. Look at my thumb – how ugly it’s become. While I’m playing I don’t think about it. I just lay out there and jam. You get into such a pitch sometimes that you go up into another thing. You don’t forget about the audience, but you forget about all the paranoia, that thing where you’re saying: “Oh gosh, I’m onstage – what am I going to do now?” Then you go into this other thing, and it turns out to be almost like a play in certain ways. I have to hold myself back sometimes because I get so excited – no, not excited, involved.

Not excited, involved. Beautiful.

From: “Starting at Zero: His Own Story,”