Ever since our Rafaella, our five-year-old daughter turned one, shortly after Thanksgiving, the somewhat mischievous Elf on a Shelf would start showing up in our house. This pint-sized Elf would mysteriously be found sitting at various places in our home when Rafaella woke up. Her priority every morning was to locate the elusive Elf in our rather large old Victorian house, and then she would squeal with glee when she located the elusive Elf. The Elf first hit the scene with the 2005 book “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition” by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, and Coe Steinwart illustrated it. The book comes in a box along with a small scout Elf. The scout Elf’s job is to watch over the situation at home and then at night to fly back to the North Pole to report who is naughty and nice to Santa. The Elf then flies back to the house and hides for another day of scouting. Each Elf has to be named by a child before it can use it’s flying powers. When family members find the new hiding place, they are not allowed to touch the Elf, but they can talk to him and express their wishes for Christmas gifts. After Christmas, the Elf flies back to the North Pole until next year.
Our family has found the tradition to be fun and even educational. We note when Rafaella is not behaving her best, and we warn her that the Elf might be watching, she immediately pays attention and cleans up her behavior. In 2012 the Elf first appeared in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and in 2013 the book hit number 1 on the USA Today bestseller list. So what could go wrong with this beautiful and heartwarming story? As it turns out this year, the Elf got slapped by a pancake!
The Elf on the Shelf—IHop Merger from Hell
Recently I was horrified to see that the breakfast chain known for their pancakes and sugar laden food had teamed up with our beloved Elf to promote a lineup of horrible, sugary, high glycemic offerings. Their web site now shows the Elf next to the phrase “Be Good for Pancake Sake.” Their “Elf on the Shelf special menu” contains the following:
- Jolly Cakes: Four green pancakes topped with sweet cream cheese icing, whipped topping, and shimmery elf sprinkles that resemble elf-sized ornaments.
- Oh What Funnel Cakes: Two funnel cakes, lightly dusted with powdered sugar and topped with glazed strawberries, whipped topping and elf sprinkles.
- Holiday Ham & Sausage Omelette: An omelet loaded with diced ham, sausage, fire-roasted peppers, onions, hashed browns and cheese, then topped with more ham, sausage, cheddar cheese, and cheese sauce. Served with three pancakes or a choice of side.
- Merry Marshmallow Hot Chocolate: Hot chocolate flavored with toasted marshmallow syrup and topped with whipped topping and elf sprinkles.
- Little Elves Combo: Choice of one Jolly Cake topped with cream cheese icing, whipped topping, and sprinkles or one Oh What Funnel Cake topped with powdered sugar, whipped topping and sprinkles with one scrambled egg, one bacon strip and one pork sausage link.
Kids are obviously the target of their promotion and in my opinion as a practicing primary care physician with an interest in the connection between diet and brain function, any parent who feeds this crap to their kids should be turned over to Child Protective Services!
Ho, Ho, Ho—This Food has to go!
Unless you have been living in a cave for the past decade, you should know that virtually all experts consider sugar to be toxic and addicting. For years the medical profession focused on the downstream effects of eating this highly processed food—obesity, fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and a long list of chronic disorders that are driven by diet-induced inflammation. These conditions tend to occur after eating this food for decades. Gary Taubes first outlined this perspective in his classic book “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” Over the past few years, we have learned the true nature of highly processed food—it is clearly neurotoxic to your brain, and it will adversely affect brain function very quickly after you start consuming this type of food. We now believe that these brain changes are entirely predictable, and this process fits a disease pattern that we call Carbohydrate Associated Reversible Brain syndrome or CARB syndrome. We have also identified 22 brain dysfunction symptoms associated with this syndrome, and many of these symptoms overlap with the symptoms of traditional psychiatric and brain disorders, creating a substantial diagnostic and therapeutic mess.
With our current level of knowledge about what this type of highly processed food can do to your health and brain function, why in heavens name would anyone suggest feeding this fare to children? To me, it would be on the same level as having Santa hand out syringes of heroin laced with fentanyl.
Crush Those Cravings
There is one issue that you do need to understand if you hope to preserve optimal brain function. The lead symptom of CARB syndrome is craving sweet and starchy food, and these cravings push people to consume more of the very food that if frying their brain. Several safe supplements can be uses to suppress these dangerous cravings. I recommend trying the amino acid L-glutamine 500=1,000 mg in capsule form 3-4x daily on an empty stomach for adults. It also comes in a powdered form, and for children, I recommend 250 mg mixed with water 3x daily. Because the symptoms of CARB syndrome are caused by depletion of key monoamine neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, taking the precursor amino acids that your brain needs to make these important chemical messengers can be very effective at controlling all the symptoms of CARB syndrome. One such fixed-dose precursor supplement is called CARB-22, and it is available on this web site at cost. Adults should start with two capsules twice daily on an empty stomach and slowly increase to four capsules twice daily. Children can take one capsule twice daily on an empty stomach and slowly increase to two capsules twice daily. For children, the capsules can be pulled apart, and the powder can be added to water.
I believe that a whole foods Mediterranean style diet is the best way for everyone to eat, especially children. My job isn’t to tell you what to do as an adult. In a free society, as long as it’s legal, you can do and eat whatever pleases you. When it comes to children, I believe that it is our responsibility to keep them away from highly processed food until they reach adulthood. After all, we certainly don’t let them consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, so they also shouldn’t be exposed to food that will fry their brains. And I don’t recommend going to your physician or local dietician to learn how to eat a healthy diet because many of them are decades beyond the latest research. I highly recommend that you do your homework when it comes to deciding what to eat. Below is a list of your “homework” to get yourself up to speed.
- “The Sugar Fix” by Richard Johnson. You can also lookup his hundreds of papers on the dangers of fructose and sucrose.
- “The Hacking of the American Mind” and “Fat Chance” by Robert Lustig.
- “The Resolution Zone” by Barry Sears. You also might consider reading some of his other 16 excellent books.
- “Wired to Eat” and “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf.
- “Always Hungry” by David Ludwig.
- “Brain Drain”—My book soon to be published that teaches people how to diagnosis their own CARB syndrome and arrange for their own treatment.
- Spent some time on Joseph Mercola’s web site that is loaded with good information about healthy eating and exercise.
I’m afraid this year we will have to take the Elf off the shelf and put her away for good. In my opinion, the Elf–IHOP merger has completely destroyed anything positive about the Elf story.