My receptionist recently read a piece in our local newspaper and brought it to the office for me to see. I was floored. It was in ‘Annie’s Mailbox.’ This is an advice column syndicated in many newspapers throughout the country and can be found on the web. It is a descendant of the Ann Landers’ column from years ago. This is truly supposed to be an advice column. I mean, people actually write them and ask for their advice! I tend to take these columns with a large grain of salt because the people answering them are often not qualified to answer the questions being asked, nor are they qualified to sort through the research, should they do any, while gathering information to supposedly “inform” us. Below is the text from that article in which a grandmother is concerned for her grandchildren because they eat very poorly. I have highlighted some of more interesting points.
Dear Annie: My son and his wife have been married 12 years and have two beautiful daughters. But I am terribly concerned about their eating habits. This is doubly difficult, as my daughter-in-law is the boss in this family and thinks she knows everything. My son is no better. He never ate properly when he lived at home, even though we tried. I hoped he would marry someone with better common sense about food.
I have never said anything outright, but I have often subtly tried to let them know how I feel. They eat nothing but pasta. They cook fresh vegetables, but don’t insist that the kids eat them. At Christmas, the 6-year-old wasn’t allowed to have a second dinner roll because it wouldn’t leave room for dessert. The 2-year-old ate olives, pickles and some pie, but wouldn’t touch the ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, or carrot sticks.
Our little grandchildren are often sick and on antibiotics. I can’t count the number of times they have had viruses, colds and ear infections. I don’t even want to go to their home because it upsets me so. What can I do? — Worried Mother
Dear Mother: Believe it or not, your grandchildren are eating just fine. Having an extra roll or mashed potatoes with gravy is no healthier than pickles and olives and has no bearing on their colds and ear infections. A lot of adult eating disorders can be traced back to parents who turned the dinner table into a battlefield. Please trust your son and his wife to care appropriately for their children, and turn a blind eye to the food issues. You can’t win — and you could lose a great deal.
First of all, those children eat terribly if their grandmother is correct in saying all they eat is pasta and no vegetables. That is the worst thing for humans to eat too much of. It may not cause problems for young children who have fast metabolisms and need lots of energy to grow, but it sets up extremely poor habits for them as adults. If they continue on that type of a diet they’ll be overweight and diabetic by the time they are in their forties.
My biggest problem with this article is the ‘advice’ that Annie gives them. She tells this grandmother that her grandchildren are eating just fine and that what they eat has nothing to do with getting colds and ear infections! Since when does what you eat have nothing to do with your immune system? Maybe ‘Annie’ knows something I don’t know. Well as it turns out ‘Annie’ is two women. She is either Kathy Mitchell or Marcy Sugar (ironic, huh?). Both write this column. It is not spelled out which wrote the advice above but their backgrounds certainly don’t warrant that they should be giving anyone health advice.
Kathy Mitchell’s background is as a typist, secretary and office manager to Eppie Lederer, a.k.a Ann Landers. Marcy Sugar started her work in the Ann Landers’ office by doing basic research and clerical tasks, then she moved into bookkeeping. Clearly both of these women are more than qualified to give advice on what is healthy for children to eat, right?
The problem is that too many people take what they read in the newspaper as gospel and the advice that was given in this article is awful. First of all, what you eat has everything to do with your immunity. For example, pasta is filled with gluten. Gluten is a very potent allergen in human beings. Constantly bombarding a young digestive tract with gluten causes the immune system to focus on the wrong things. It will focus on allergens rather than viruses and bacterial. The grandmother states that her grandchildren are constantly getting sick. If it isn’t the junky diets these kids are eating then what does ‘Annie’ attribute it to? Are they just sick kids and there’s nothing that can be done about it? Definitely not.
Secondly, diet is a huge part of immunity for another reason that ‘Annie’ overlooks. If these children are not eating fruits and vegetables (as is stated in the article) they aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals to fuel their immune systems. Vitamin C and vitamin A are too very simple examples of nutrients that are essential for immune function.
Lastly, ‘Annie’ says this in her advice; “You can’t win – and you could lose a great deal.” What kind of an attitude is that? What is there to “win?” This woman clearly wants her grandchildren (and her son and wife) to be healthier. I understand that ‘Annie’ is saying it could cause a rift within the family and possibly ruin relationships. But what about the fact that when people eat like this they have higher rates of cancer, diabetes and even death? Is that not the biggest loss anyone can have? Is ‘Annie’ suggesting just to give in and watch her family eat it’s way to an early grave? It appears that way.
Advice columns like this have little merit and hopefully people see through them. I fear, however, that judging by the popularity of these columns some people actually take them seriously and listen to the advice. This advice column gives the completely wrong advice saying that those children eat just fine. They eat the opposite of just fine. They eat horrible diets and if they aren’t changed, those poor children are in for a lifetime of bad health.