October 4, 2008
Peanut Butter M&M Overdose Partially-Hydrogenates Young Fiddler Kellen Zakula
ATLANTA — Doctors and biologists are struggling to explain how an apparent junk food overdose has resulted in the first-ever partial hydrogenation of an entire human being.
“His body’s fat deposits, typically liquid at physiological temperature, have congealed into a semi-solid gel very similar in appearance to Crisco,” said Dr. Frederic Broussard, a leading international fat cell researcher heading the effort to explain Kellen Zakula’s condition.
“Spectroscopic analyses of numerous samples from the subject’s adipose tissue have confirmed our suspicions. The lipids in his body are partially hydrogenated.”
“This s—t is straight out of the X-Files,” said one postdoctoral fellow on the Zakula research team.
Kellen Zakula, 22, a promising young fiddler and singer, was riding in a van in central Colorado when he began to complain of diffuse physical pain radiating from his stomach and breasts. Within minutes, most of his body had stiffened, rendering him completely immobile and nonresponsive.
“It was insane. Corey DiMario and I were in the front seat, and Kellen was in the back, sort of offhandedly complaining about some kind of pain, but we didn’t think much of it. Next thing I know, I turn around and it looks like he’s got rigor mortis,” said Greg Liszt.
“And he was covered in peanut butter,” added DiMario.
“That was when we noticed the empty bag of peanut butter M&M’s next to him,” said an anonymous British girl who happened to be in the van at the time for unknown reasons.
“Not a small bag, either. I think it was one of those two pound Halloween party bags,” said Liszt.
“I can’t believe he ate the whole thing. That makes me so mad,” said DiMario.
Zakula was taken to the hospital and promptly airlifted to a CDC facility in Atlanta, GA, where experts pronounced him partially hydrogenated, but alive.
Partial hydrogenation typically occurs by an industrial process requiring high heat, a metal catalyst, and hydrogen gas.
This process chemically alters unsaturated fats such as those found in vegetable oil, increasing overall solidity and textural homogeneity at room temperature. These attributes, along with enhanced shelf life, have made partially hydrogenated vegetable oils very popular in mass-produced baked goods.
Many common brands of peanut butter also contain partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil as an additive to enhance spreadability and prevent the peanut butter from separating into distinct layers over time.
Public health officials have long warned against excessive consumption of foods containing partially-hydrogenated oils, as they contain unnatural isomers of fats that pose several long-term health risks including heart disease and stroke.
But this case marks the first instance of an immediate acute health trauma resulting from trans-fat ingestion.
“Our working model is that the vast quantity of partially hydrogenated fats from the peanut butter M&M’s so totally overwhelmed the patient’s system that they fundamentally altered the equilibrium of fat in his body, almost entirely replacing the natural isomers with their partially-hydrogenated counterparts,” said Dr. Broussard.
“To reverse this process, we have put the patient on a new diet consisting entirely of natural peanut butter, free of partially hydrogenated oils. His body seems to be coming back to normal very gradually,” said a nutritional specialist on Zakula’s treatment team.
Added Dr. Picard, “It is truly amazing that one human being was capable of eating that many peanut butter M&M’s so quickly.”