How bad is McDonald’s?

by on January 30, 2007 at 6:35 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

Not as bad as some people say:

A Swedish researcher put 18 volunteers on the same diet that filmmaker Morgan Spurlock went on while filming "Super Size Me."

The result?

one volunteer gained 15 percent body weight after following the
high-choleric diet for a month, several others experienced only minimal
weight gain.  [He] was thus forced to conclude that "some people are
just more susceptible to obesity than others."

Also: The 12 men and six women were banned from exercising.

While all gained weight, none reported mood swings or liver damage like Spurlock did in the movie.

1 A Tykhyy January 30, 2007 at 7:31 am

The comments at the linked post highlight the problems with such a conclusion. Go ahead and read them.

2 susan January 30, 2007 at 8:13 am

I railed against this film and what it supposedly proved when I had to watch it in a nutrition course. For one thing, any drastic change in diet–even when someone goes strict vegetarian–will result in physical changes that may make one feel dizzy, upset, etc.
Secondly, no one lives on MacDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. You eat just apples all day for a month and see how you feel, and how traumatized your system is by the onslaught.

3 cure January 30, 2007 at 9:10 am

It seems like McD’s get the short end of the stick here; I want to see how much weight you put on eating at the local Chinese joint 3 meals a day and not exercising (or even better, at the French Laundry or some 3 Michelin star restaurant in Burgundy!). I’d bet the results would be even more drastic!

4 MDM January 30, 2007 at 9:21 am

It’s also important to note that he ate over 5,000 calories a day. His maintanence level was likely between 2,000 and 3,000 (and without exercise I seriously doubt it
was 3,000). A recipe for nutritional disaster for most people.

5 Dave K January 30, 2007 at 10:03 am

Me & Mickey D

She isn’t quite as charismatic as Spurlock.

6 ben tillman January 30, 2007 at 10:58 am

“It’s also important to note that he ate over 5,000 calories a day.”

That’s almost nine Big Macs per day. Is that a realistic estimate of the average person’s (or even the average man’s) appetite — even in the absence of any concern about weight gain?

7 Dray January 30, 2007 at 11:30 am

I think even “Super Size Me” pointed out the fat grams difference between fries obtained in NYC by Morgan Spurlock and fries offered on Northern European McDonald’s menus. The cooking methods and choices of oil used for fried foods accounts for the that. As a result, the taste (as mentioned by Allan) is vastly different.

Although no supporter of McDonald’s, I’m with Susan when she points out that Spurlock’s previous vegetarian diet may have accounted for some of the difficulties he experienced on his “30 days” diet.

8 nelsonal January 30, 2007 at 12:09 pm

If you get the large soda that’s 410 calories (if you don’t refill it), super size fries, add another 600 calories to each meal. The large shake is 1150 calories. The 500 calorie big mac burger is relativly light compared to those “sides”.

9 michael vassar January 30, 2007 at 12:59 pm

I recommend looking at the current New Scientist cover article on the recent experiment. Sadly, it’s only available on-line with subscription, but it’s much more detailed than the Wired article, and is very interesting. The main point though is not how bad or not bad McDonalds is, but rather how varied the responses are of different people to essentially the same high calorie high fat diet.

10 steve rodrigues January 30, 2007 at 3:53 pm

From the Metro story (pointed to by the Wired link), the research subjects were “twenty-somethings.” Since this was a university, I’d venture a guess that they are university students and thus are in their EARLY 20’s.

According to IMDB, Morgan Spurlock was born in 1970 and Super-Size Me was released in 2004. Assuming the film didn’t take over 2 years to produce, he was at least 32 years old at that time — i.e. he was about 10 years older than the test subjects.

I don’t know about you, but I have noticed some pretty significant differences in the way my body processed food in my early 20’s and my early 30’s.

11 Patrick January 30, 2007 at 9:56 pm

I can guarantee you that if you ate even every night at a top French restaurant you would, barring considerable exercise, put on weight. Partly because they try and froce you to buy entree main dessert combinations which add up to soooo much (yummmy) food.

I thought the film should have been pilloried from one coast to the other – imagine McDonalds making a similarly misleading film about Spurling (ie someone talks to Spurling trhee times a day for an hour each time and ceases all other social contact and by the end of the 30 days that person has mood swings, is depressed, suffers homicidal urges towards Spurling, etc).

12 Rich Rostrom February 3, 2007 at 2:02 am

“the portions you get in Japan are smaller than what you get in Europe, for example.”

Unless you order a MegaMac:

13 casey November 14, 2007 at 1:11 pm

14 Levi March 28, 2008 at 8:30 pm

yo i hope you guys know that a big mac has around 2000 ( 2k ) callories in one burger!

15 Danielle April 27, 2009 at 4:53 pm

I think the movie was well done. Even if not every person eats there for every meal it still gives you an idea on what it does to a persons body. Even if they are not very noticable changes, it doesnt mean that it hasn’t harmed the persons organs or functions. I agree with the age thing though. The college test subjects were alot younger than the man who did Supersize Me. That could be a good explanation of why he reacted so much different than the college students. But i do think it was a good movie and education to some point. It helps when tests like these are done in visual ways where the public can see them and see the real effects. The point he was trying to get across was simply that Fast food like McDonalds isn’t the greatest for your body and if you eat alot of it, it could lead to future problems.

16 Jar Mobile February 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

While one volunteer gained 15 percent body weight after following the high-choleric diet for a month, several others experienced only minimal weight gainfree sis gamesWhile all gained weight, none reported mood swings or liver damage like Spurlock did in the movie

17 im a fan April 19, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I’m in college, and McD’s is cheap and tasty so I eat it incredibly often. For my freshman year and good chunks of last semester McD’s would constitute 14+ meals per week – I’m sure there were a couple weeks were it was all that I ate. In fact, my dad used to be a chef, and when I was in high school a cardiologist told me that I wasn’t getting enough sodium from his home cooking so more McDonald’s and chips would do me some good. Interesting, eh? If anything, a good old McD’s meal gives me an energy boost – in fact, whenever my libido is worn out, I’ve developed a tactic of grabbing a chicken club with fries and a shake to get it back in line.

Granted, I am very careful what I put into my body, so I virtually never order burgers – I stick to the chicken. Ask for a nutrition table next time you’re there to see why. Apparently McD’s doesn’t use GM feed for their animals, and I would suspect a majority of the difference in flavor between Europe and America is that American foods favor strong flavors, so they probably just dilute the artificial flavoring more in the EU. Oh, and they probably think it’s healthy to give their animals wine haha

I eat so little beef that steaks make me queasy – burgers are the only cow that sit very well on my stomach at all, now that I think about it.

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