Pub date January 2, 2007

New years, like wars, tend to begin with high hopes and well-laid plans. We vow to lose weight, drink less, stop smoking, and secure Baghdad. Then the starting flag drops, the leftover cheesecake has to be eaten for breakfast, you develop an aversion to your fancy new digital bathroom scale, it’s raining, and you learn you have been impeached.

Breakfast cheesecake is probably not the utmost in depravity, since it does have the virtue of sticking with you. It also helps relieve holiday refrigerator clutter. But you will find no reference to it in Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine by Elson M. Haas, MD (Ten Speed, $39.95 paper), the latest and perhaps the most formidable of the many food-health gospels that have been published in recent years.

Haas is of the exhaustive, no-nonsense school, and while his tome reiterates many of the current wisdoms (eat more dark greens and less meat, mind your fats), it contains more extensive discussions of nutritional issues, than many of its competitors. I was particularly interested in Haas’s views on vitamin E, a strong antioxidant that has been controversial in some quarters because of studies suggesting it might actually worsen certain heart conditions.

Haas emphasizes that the dosage of E, taken as a nutritional supplement, does matter: benefits that accrue at a daily intake of around 400 international units (one of those little gelcaps) can become worrisome at higher levels. But he also points out that getting enough E from food alone is tricky, in part because the E-rich foods tend to be high in fat.

It is too late now to give Staying Healthy as a stocking stuffer, and given its size, this is just as well. There is a difference between a stuffed stocking and a burst one. The book belongs on a shelf anyway, among its fellow worthies, ready to be quickly consulted during and beyond the season of weight-loss programs.

Egg on face: is there anything sadder than a botched joke? In a recent piece (Without Reservations, 11/29/06) I cracked wise about a long-ago drink-beer-X-or-we’ll-kill-you ad campaign. I thought the beer was Bud, but of course it was Schlitz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous — or Mel Famy walk us, to give the punch line of another old joke.

Paul Reidinger

› paulr@sfbg.com