- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2005

Now it turns out that ingesting all sorts of overpriced concessions at the ballpark might be good for you.

Have a beer or two. Scarf a couple of hot dogs. Load up on onions and sauerkraut, not to mention breath fresheners. And live a long life.

You probably thought such fare qualified as junk food. Heavens no, says the American Chemical Society (ACS) — and who could argue with so learned a slew of scholars?

According to a posting on the ACS Web site (www.chemistry.org) last week, some ballpark treats are actually good for you. In other words, you should have a literally healthy interest in the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles or any other gang of knickered millionaires that you prefer.

“This is really a compilation of several studies we did on food items at the ballpark,” said Mark T. Sampson, senior science writer at the ACS. “The key is moderation.”



According to the society, low-fat hot dogs might be a little better for your heart, but everybody knows that regular dogs taste better. Apparently, this came as news to researchers, who concluded the real dogs’ “aroma compounds, which affect flavor, appear to be released more slowly and last longer.”

A preliminary study also suggests that onions and sauerkraut may help prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. When this study is completed, it probably will show that a little Limburger on your hamburger will empty the seats around you faster than a foul ball headed your way.

Sauerkraut is made from fermented cabbage and includes a class of compounds called isothiocyanates that have been identified as potential cancer-fighting agents, the study says. Who knew?

And, oh yes, the beer. Anybody who spends time at a ballpark has sat near a group of guzzlers. A study indicates that one cup of beer a day might ward off heart attacks. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your state of sobriety, it does not tell us how big that cup should be.

There is no designated hitter in the National League, but a designated driver is an excellent idea.

The same applies to imbibers of red wine, which also can improve your ticker and is available at the District’s RFK Stadium and elsewhere for those of the yuppie persuasion.

It’s admirable if some paying customers at RFK guzzle beer or sip wine strictly to take care of their hearts — but it might not do much good if the Nationals insist on playing all those one-run games and closer Chad Cordero persists in loading the bases before notching saves.

Some in the health field, however, are likely to take issue with the society’s evaluation of stadium grub.

“I don’t know that I can endorse it,” said Noralyn Mills, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Certainly, all food can fit into a proactive, healthy lifestyle, but I wouldn’t encourage people to indulge in ballpark food. It’s hard to make generalizations, because every person’s genetic makeup is different. I would encourage everyone to consult a dietitian to see what’s best for him or her.”

The society report doesn’t mention soda, popcorn, pretzels, nachos, pizza, ice cream and all the other presumably healthful food and drink that Aramark Corp. makes available at RFK, but surely vendors wouldn’t be selling them if they were bad for people. And surely there must be health benefits from standing in line at a concession stand for 30 minutes, shifting constantly from foot to foot, while the line moves about as fast as Frank Robinson, the 69-year-old Nationals manager.

So never mind those 33 seasons when the nation’s capital endured without a team. Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball must have had our best interests at heart, after all, or otherwise, we’d have to settle for yogurt, oat bran and tofu at RFK this happy summer.

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