Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cognition via Digestion

Christmas has come and gone, leaving in its wake a path of destruction wreaked on my health and digestion. My clothes have mysteriously all shrunk in the dryer, my knees ache when I climb the stairs and my dog has taken to yelling "lard-ass!!" at me instead of his usual "woof". My blood type has turned to scalloped potatoes and my liver is paying the price of my family's craziness.

So imagine my surprise on logging on to reddit.com yesterday morning only to discover that these holiday indulgences are not only warding off my eventual demise into Requiem For A Dream-like dementia, they are actually improving my cognitive abilities. According to an article on Science Daily, the Oxford department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics teamed with a team from Norway to study the relationship between cognition and the intake of three common foodstuffs containing flavonoids, namely Chocolate, Wine and Tea.

I do admit that I have misgivings regarding Brits researching cuisine when they are responsible for such culinary delights as Christmas Pudding and Mincemeat. You would think that instead of researching chemical effects of Flavonoids on cognition that they might attack a more rudimentary problem first, say, the effects of eating sausage, beans, and blood-pudding for breakfast on ones health and flatulence or, perhaps, toothbrushes: how to pick and where to find one. This, combined with my distaste for Lutefisk and Slatur (don't even ask), both regional "cuisines" of Norway makes me completely distrust any and all information included in this study. How both ABBA and Ace of Base remained so upbeat and happy subsisting on a diet composed of this crap is a question I will never be able to answer. Yes, I know, those are both Swedish bands, but their cuisine is fairly similar and the only bands I know of to come out of Norway are Mayhem and Royskopp... Yeah, that's what I thought; no one wants me to go on a lengthy exposition on bands that eat their own lead singer and make necklaces from his skull, do they? But I digress...

After contemplating how I would go about researching and back-checking all of the facts and findings of their study I came up with a much simpler solution: a one-day field test involving one test subject and a limited budget. What? This is a perfectly legitimate short-cut. It should work nearly as well as the time that I forgot to put the turkey into the oven until 20 minutes before everyone arrived for dinner. Just divide the amount of time required by the recipe by how much time you have until everyone shows up and multiply the temperature by the quotient, right? I know, I was surprised that my stove went up to 4200° too. I never did get to see how that one turned out... Some jackass decided to light my kitchen on fire and the fire department showed up before I could taste it.

My next step was to set about organizing my scientific study. While a scientific person would go about getting someone else to observe their behavior during a study like this I decided upon a different tack. I have proven time and time again that not only am I patently un-scientific when it comes to attacking problems but I am, in fact, chaotic, disorganized and completely irrational. If someone were to make a flow-chart of my typical efforts at problem solving it would resemble several feedback loops that never progress beyond step one: identify problem area. There would also, in all probability, be several pirate ships attacking a flaming tank drawn on the side of the flow-chart by me when I got confused by its colors and mistook it for a children's place mat from IHOP. Needless to say, my processes for this study were going to differ slightly from those used by Oxford and the Norwegians, and not just in the size of the sample group: this test was going to take place all in one day...

Hmmmm, in order to be able to ingest the amount of quantities necessary to get a viable sample of their effects I was going to have to fudge a bit on the ingredients here. Considering my height and body-weight I was going to have to knock back about 4 bottles of wine alone, not to mention the Chocolate and Tea, in order to get enough Flavonoids into my system in one day. That was likely going to end in a hyperactive booze-rant in a bubble-tea hut on University Ave when I would invariably be refused service for shouting my order at a wall and sleeping on the counter. Actually, that might pass for normal behavior in the U-District but I still wasn't going to risk it.

What Foods did I decide on for my single-day test, you ask? Well, here's where that part about me being chaotic and completely irrational comes in to play. I decided on the following 3 substitutes: Malt Liquor, Twinkies and Red Bull. While they contain no Flavonoids whatsoever, the alcohol content of the booze is markedly lower while the caffeine and sugar content of the Twinkie/Red Bull far outpaces that of Chocolate and Tea. I figure that the metabolic effects of the sugar and caffeine will perfectly counteract the depressant effects of the Mickeys Green Hornet, or whatever happens to be on sale. This is, after all, as much about saving money as it is about taking drastic short-cuts. Lets just hope that there isn't a special on any malt liquor with "Ice" in the title. The last time I ingested anything like that my evening resembled the Prodigy video for "Smack My Bitch Up", except replace the strip club with a retirement home and quintuple the amount of vomiting and property damage... Just watch the video, it'll all make sense.

Get it? That's what I was trying to avoid...

So, where to go for all three of these precious American commodities, you ask? Right across the street from the house I grew up in, as a matter of fact.

Yes, this explains why my study habits in High School closely resembled sleeping: the Korean store owners at the Wicker Basket Grocery apparently thought that I was 21 when I was 16 despite my awesome complexion and braces. This might be attributed to the fact that I was already 6'5" at the time but they should have been suspicious of any "21" year-old who actually chose to a) dress like a reject from a Cypress Hill video and b) only bought Malt Liquor or Fortified Wine. Sadly though, the Wicker Basket was closed for remodeling when I stopped by. Either that or they finally got busted for selling booze and cigarettes to anyone over five-foot one.

After a few minutes of deliberation I finally decided to head down the street to the aptly named "Choice Deli".

The only change that this store has undergone in the last 15 years is getting rid of the Street Fighter II video game and the Addams Family pinball machine. They even have the same guy working at the front counter, all 6'6" of him replete with waist-length hair, Sepultura T-shirt and black jeans. This place was like a time-warp. I half expected to find cans of New Coke sporting Max Headroom on the back when I opened the cooler.

It took me a few minutes but I finally decided on four 40oz. bottles of St. Ides for my beer. In order to counteract the alcoholic effects I figured I was going to need the same amounts of sugar and caffeine in my system as alcohol. The alcohol by volume is 6% in St. Ides which came out to about 9.6oz of hooch in those 4 bottles, if my kindergarten arithmetic was correct, so I was going to need enough servings of Twinkies and Red Bull to get an equivalent amount of sugar and caffeine into my blood stream, right? Here's where I decided on another short-cut: since the fluid ounce is a measure of volume that weighs only slightly more than the dry ounce (when water is used) I decided to fudge the difference between the two for my calculations. After all, it's not like metric to imperial conversion has ever caused any drastic problems, right?

There are approximately 28.35g to the ounce. After breaking out my set of Crayola crayons and working with a slide-rule for a few minutes I calculated that I would need 272.16g of both Sugar and Caffeine. A quick look at the back label of Red Bull forced me to make another quick change: in order to get that amount of caffeine into my body I would need to ingest approximately 35 cans of Red Bull. Judging by the effects that half of a can typically has on me I decided to shoot for 272 milligrams of Caffeine instead of 272 grams, which amounted to just under 4 cans. With 27g of sugar per serving to go along with it, that meant that I had to get another 164g of Sugar via Twinkies. Things were looking up: that only came to 12 packs of Twinkies! I had conquered my conversion tables and on top of that I wasn't going to have to drink or eat all that much. I figured I could knock this out in 3 or 4 hours.

When I woke up the next morning I was proven to have been drastically mistaken. Not only did I not remember the previous 12 hours but my home resembled a cross between a scene from Fear and Loathing and the Delta fraternity from Animal house, complete with a motorcycle in the hallway and the stolen mascot of some local High School (does anyone know who has a badger for a mascot, because this thing has almost destroyed my bathroom and is only momentarily trapped in my washing machine). Needless to say I, like so many stripe-shirted frat-boys do every weekend, completely misjudged the restorative effects of caffeine and sugar vs. alcohol. On the upside, I did get some good data out of this little exercise. I feel like complete hammered shit, like there are 10,000 monkeys with broken-glass wrapped hands fist fighting in my frontal lobe, not to mention the damage that my G.I. tract has wreaked on the bathroom and, by proximity, on that stolen mascot. This all points to the simple conclusion that Norway and Oxford are full of crap. My Beer, Twinkie and Red Bull diet not only failed to make me any healthier but in the tallying was also responsible for about $1000 worth of property damage per ounce of intake. Suck on that math Oxford!


  1. I think you should post a picture of yourself as a teen, braces and all, in order to legitimize a claim that you've made ...

  2. Will do... I just need to find one... *shudder*