Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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January 27, 2004

Big Mac fails the test

Time and again we hear from officials that we need not worry about supplementing vitamins, our normal food contains all our bodies could ever desire. Not so, I say. At least not for the millions around the world who eat fast food with any regularity.

Someone actually checked it out. He ate nothing but McDonalds food for a month, three meals a day. Here is the story, published in the New Zealand Herald and also featured on Drudge.

The film - Super Size Me - is out now (June 2004) and seems to be a hit. Big Mac is doing damage control on their website. BBC has an article.

Film records effects of eating only McDonald's for a month

25.01.2004 12.00pm - By DAVID USBORNE

NEW YORK - Normally sane actors have been known to gain or lose huge amounts of weight for their art. Think of Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary. Directors, of course, never have to undergo such torture. Or so it used to be, until Morgan Spurlock had a bright idea for a film project.

The first clue to his particular misery comes in the title of his documentary, which has become the darling of this year's Sundance Film Festival. It is called Super Size Me: A Film of Epic Portions and it is a sometimes comic but serious look at America's addiction to fast food.

Spurlock, a tall New Yorker of usually cast-iron constitution, made himself the guinea pig in this dogged investigation into the effects of fast food on the body. He ate only at McDonald's for a month - three meals, every day - and took a camera crew along to record it. If a server offered to super-size his order, he was obliged to accept - and to ingest everything, gherkins and all.

Neither Spurlock, 33, nor the three doctors who agreed to monitor his health during the experiment were prepared for the degree of ruin it would wreak on his body. Within days, he was vomiting up his burgers and battling with headaches and depression. And his sex drive vanished.

When Spurlock had finished, his liver, overwhelmed by saturated fats, had virtually turned to pate. "The liver test was the most shocking thing," said Dr Daryl Isaacs, who joined the team to watch over him. "It became very, very abnormal."

Spurlock put on nearly 12kg over the period and his cholesterol level leapt from a respectable 165 to 230. He told the New York Post: "I got desperately ill. My face was splotchy and I had this huge gut, which I've never had in my life ... It was amazing - and really frightening." And his girlfriend, a vegan chef? "She was completely disgusted by me," he said.

Making the film over several months last year, Spurlock travelled through 20 states, interviewing everyone from fast-food junkies to the US Surgeon General and a lobbyist for the industry. McDonald's, for whom the film can only be a public relations catastrophe, ignored his repeated entreaties for comment.

Spurlock had the idea for the film on Thanksgiving Day 2002, slumped on his mother's couch after eating far too much. He saw a news item about two teenage girls in New York suing McDonald's for making them obese. The company responded by saying their food was nutritious and good for people. Is that so, he wondered? To find out, he committed himself to his 30 days of Big Mac bingeing.

The film does not yet have a distributor and, given the advertising clout of McDonald's, that may prove problematic. But the critics at Sundance seem to have been captivated. Certainly, the film is blessed by good timing. Obesity has in recent months captured headlines as America's new health scourge. The humour of the approach - and Spurlock's own suffering - obviously helps.

At the festival in Park City, Utah, he has had teams handing out "Unhappy Meal" bags on the streets with a few "Fat Fun Facts". For instance, one in four Americans visits a fast-food restaurant every day. And did you know that McDonald's feeds more people around the world every day than the population of Spain? The makers have self-rated the film "F" - for "fat audiences".

McDonald's has finally been forced to comment. "Consumers can achieve balance in their daily dining decisions by choosing from our array of quality offerings and range of portion sizes to meet their taste and nutrition goals," it said in a statement last week.

Spurlock claims that the goal was not to attack McDonald's as such. Among the issues he highlights is the willingness of schools to feed students nothing but burgers and pizza. "If there's one thing we could accomplish with the film, it is that we make people think about what they put in their mouth," he said. "So the next time you do go into a fast-food restaurant and they say, 'Would you like to upsize that?' you think about it and say, 'Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll stick with the medium this time.'"

See also

If you did not catch the movie in the theaters, you can now watch it at home:
Supersize me - watch or download the movie here

Eating fast food more than twice a week has strong links with weight gain and insulin resistance, a US study shows.

Reel News: A super-size scandal

U.S. Government Backs Junk Food Industry

McDonald's Trans Fat "Promise" Long Forgotten

Ban Trans Fats - The campaign to ban partially hydrogenated oils

San Francisco Gate: Tastes Like (Mutant) Chicken - The great McDonald's diet test, and why Ukrainians won't touch your buffalo wings

One might say these (articles here following) indicate setbacks in the junk food fight, but we must remember that indeed people are responsible for what they do, including for what they put down their gullet. If someone wants to kill themselves eating nothing but fast food, they are welcome to do so. Freedom of choice does however start with free access to unfiltered information, and that is where government could act, making propaganda less pervasive by countering it with real information.

Court dismisses McDonald's obesity case

US shields fast-food firms from obesity cases

McDonalds fights off film attack

Hardee's serves up 1,420-calorie burger
Fast-food giant skips diet craze, concocts fat-filled sandwich

McDonalds pays millions in trans fat settlement

Super Size Me Earns Writers Guild Honors
The Guild honored writer and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who also starred in the film and became ill after a month-long experiment eating McDonald's fast food three times a day. When asked if the success of Super Size Me may have had anything to do with McDonald's eliminating its super-sized line of "happy" meals, Spurlock was honest and modest. "It's a testament to the power of filmmaking. Documentaries are more important now than ever."

October 2005: 'Burger bill' passed by US House
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at making it harder for people to sue the food industry for causing obesity.
The Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, James Sensenbrenner, said fast-food retailers were not to blame for Americans' over-indulgence. "It is not the place of the law to protect them from their own excess," he said, adding that anyone suffering from obesity should go to a doctor, not a lawyer.

Sunderland Today: Chips, beans and toast the diet that killed Scott
Scott would eat only white sliced bread, fast food french fries, and the occasional plate of baked beans. He hated foreign food, and refused to eat fresh fruit or vegetables. His dreadful diet damaged him so badly he developed cirrhosis a condition more commonly seen in hardened drinkers.

McDonald's French Fries Have More Trans Fats Than Ever Before
Based on the nutritional content now placed voluntarily by fast-food chains on their food packaging, McDonald's French fries jumped from six to eight grams of trans fat and total fats from 25 to 30. McDonald's posted these increases on their Web site a month ago, explaining the new numbers as improvements in their nutritional testing process to make them more accurate.

I'm lovin' it
The week brought great news for fans of real food: falling sales have forced the closure of 25 UK McDonald's branches. Could this be a tipping point? Asks Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

'Supersize me' mice research offers grim warning for America's fast food consumers
It's research that may have you thinking twice before upgrading to the large size at your favorite fast food joint. Saint Louis University research presented this week in Washington, D.C., shows the dangers of high-fat food combined with high fructose corn syrup and a sedentary lifestyle in other words, what may be becoming commonplace among Americans.

12-Year Old McDonald's Hamburger, Still Looking Good
Wellness educator and nutrition consultant Karen Hanrahan has kept a McDonald's hamburger since 1996 to illustrate its nonexistent ability to decay. Aside from drying out and bit and having "the oddest smell," it apparently hasn't changed much in the past 12 years.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Tuesday January 27 2004
updated on Friday December 10 2010

URL of this article:


Related Articles

Why Fast Food Makes Us Fat
..."The hidden reason fast food makes us fat: It has a very high energy density--about 65 percent higher than a typical diet and twice as high as recommended healthy diets--which makes us eat more than we otherwise would. Energy density refers to the amount of calories an item of food contains in relation to its weight. Foods with a high energy density confuse the brain's control systems for appetite, which... [read more]
November 19, 2003 - Chris Gupta

Time to get off that junk food!
25 June, 2003 - Health and sickness depends on what you eat and on exercising. In a recent study, reported in the Washington Post, researchers have found that "....People who eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish have at least a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease and cancer." And it's not enough to just add fruit and vegetables to... [read more]
June 27, 2003 - Sepp Hasslberger

The good, the bad and margarine
I must say I am a great fan of butter. Never did like the "artificial" kind that was hyped as more healthy: margarine. As the decades passed, we found out about trans fatty-acids and about the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. And after half a century, all of a sudden butter does not seem so bad any more - compared to margarine. Partially hydrogenated margarines and shortening are even worse... [read more]
September 29, 2003 - Sepp Hasslberger

The following article (extracted from Dr. Lawrence Wilson's information dense site) is one of the best that I have seen on this issue. While the propaganda mill of the industry has hood winked us into thinking that their counterfeit copy is better - the real reason is the considerable profit that margarine, and other processed foods bring over the more expensive natural products. The cost of the margarine is based... [read more]
November 24, 2004 - Chris Gupta

Crime and Nutrition
Tjarko Holtjer, a friend in the Netherlands who runs a well fed multilingual website about health freedom, nutrition issues and more, has sent an article which I would like to pass on. Criminal behaviour and violence depend very much on nutrition. Some vitamins or essential minerals - if out of balance - can make the difference between a sane fellow and a violent criminal. Same thing at school - nutrition... [read more]
October 15, 2003 - Sepp Hasslberger

Food Additives, Sugar and IQ
All the nutrients necessary for good health can be found in a normal, varied diet. That is the mantra repeated again and again by health authorities, dieticians and those politicians who believe them. What we aren't told is that our normal, varied diet is seriously deficient and full of things that tend to destroy any nutritional advantage. Thanks to Jon Rappoport for this article about a research done in more... [read more]
January 15, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger




Readers' Comments

Hi again Sepp,
First, the link from the update took me to a page that had been taken down (no surprise). Its a good thing you posted it on your site because I personally blame McDonalds for my husbands quickly diminishing health problem.(he quit eating there altogether) My kids are not allowed to eat at McDonalds. It is in my opinion that it is manufactured much like the dog and cat food that is ready-made. I can only imagine what goes into it. Belch!
Thanks Again for your sharp-sighted dilegence.

Posted by: Leila Tebow on January 28, 2004 07:14 PM


I am currently working on a project concerning the poverty stricken teenagers, how they are targets for fast food and how it affects their health. Have you done any surveys or research based in that area? If not, then have you done any surveys in general?

Posted by: Tyler on November 13, 2006 01:19 PM



no, I have not done any research in that area, but I let your question stand here, just in case someone comes by who has.

Posted by: Sepp on November 13, 2006 04:40 PM


hello i am doing a paper on how bad is fast food for you and what it can cause if you have any information that can help me i will apprciate it. thankn you, rita

Posted by: rita on February 5, 2008 03:13 PM


Hi Rita, the information I have, I've put into this article. There are also links in the article you can follow, and see whether you find something useful, and there are related articles. Go explore all those links. Good hunting and have fun doing that paper!

Posted by: Sepp on February 5, 2008 05:16 PM


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The Individual Is Supreme And Finds Its Way Through Intuition


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

These articles are brought to you strictly for educational and informational purposes. Be sure to consult your health practitioner of choice before utilizing any of the information to cure or mitigate disease. Any copyrighted material cited is used strictly in a non commercial way and in accordance with the "fair use" doctrine.



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