On May 20, 2011 Macho Man Randy Savage passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident after he had a heart attack. Known for his endorsement of Slim Jim beef jerky, people were only half-joking when they said “Slim Jims killed the Macho Man!” So, did they?
It’s true, Macho Man loved Slim Jims
Or, at least he was a paid celebrity sponsor of them. It’s also true that in American culture’s understanding of what’s healthy and what isn’t, meat is a bad guy. For the past several decades, eating meat, especially red meat, has been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease, the very thing that probably caused Macho Man’s heart to stop while he was behind the wheel. The irony of the situation was too good for many to pass up.
Macho Man pushed meat, so it would make sense to wonder if Macho Macho died of a heart attack in some kind of cosmic practical joke.
But what’s really in a Slim Jim?
But the irony of Macho Man’s sad passing rests on one faulty assumption: that a Slim Jim is actually meat. In fact, there is good reason to say that calling a Slim Jim “meat” is being pretty loose with the definition of meat. Take for example this break down of the Macho Man’s favorite meat stick from Wired. According to their food science, the Slim Jim is a tasty food product that contains:
- Beef: potentially the kind of “beef” on the bottom rung of the USDA’s quality standards
- Mechanically separated chicken
- Corn and wheat protein
- Lactic acids
- Dextrose: a sugar to feed the lactic acid cultures
- Sodium nitrite: as a preservative to maintain the meat’s healthy color
- Hydrolyzed soy: for flavor enhancing
The Slim Jim is a classic American food product
- It doesn’t exist in nature.
- It could live on your shelf forever and not go bad or lose its flavor.
- It’s cheap.
You could probably go extreme couponing and get a couple hundred for free, if you wanted to.
It’s also a classic American food product in that it contains multiple ingredients that are pro-inflammatory: cheap grains, flavor enhancers, and refined sugars. These foods tend to cause the body to be in a state of inflammation based on their very chemistry, which the body uses in its natural inflammation processes. Some health experts see the real cause of atherosclerosis and heart disease as widespread body inflammation from pro-inflammatory chemicals in our food supply. Not the cholesterol in meat.
So, while some could make the argument that it was Macho Man’s cholesterol levels that got to him at the age of 58, others would say meat had nothing to do with it. Inflammation did.
Are heart attacks caused by high cholesterol or a body stressed by chronic inflammation?
Where real beef-jerky only contains beef and curing salts, the Slim Jim is chronic disease in shrink wrapped form. It’s the furthest thing from healthy, organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat that cannot be found on convenience store shelves. Which means if Slim Jims did really contribute to the Macho Man’s finishing move, it wasn’t because they were meat.
It’s because they are anything but.
For more on the connection between grains, sugars, and inflammation
This short video featuring the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation is a great place to get started on this other perspective on human disease.
RIP, Macho Man.