I’ll have a burger, some fries and a side of insulin resistance with my shake, please

fatkidseatingmickeyd's If you’ve ever seen the film “Super Size Me,” Morgan Spurlock, the documentary’s star and director, embarks on a month-long experiment to discover the adverse health effects of consuming a diet composed entirely of items from the menu at McDonald’s.  Spurlock decided to investigate whether or not eating only foods from McDonald’s would cause him any ill effects on his health because he had seen a news story about two teens who had sued McDonald’s because they claimed that McDonald’s food made them obese.  The suit was later thrown out of court by a judge who ruled that it was “not the place of the law to protect [the plaintiffs] from their own excesses.”

Spurlock begins the experiment in excellent health–his cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose levels are all normal.  Spurlock imposed several guidelines for conducting his experiment, which were:

  • He had to eat three full McDonald’s meals each day during the 30 days.
  • He had to sample everything on the menu at McDonald’s.  No other foods or drink were allowed.
  • He had to “Super Size” his meal if the option was offered to him.
  • He could only walk 5,000 steps daily.  This is the number of steps the average American walks in a day.  Spurlock’s normal step count before the experiment was in upward of 15,000 steps a day, as he lived in Manhattan at the time of filming and walked everywhere he went.  For reference, 5,000 steps is equal to roughly 2 miles.

supersizemeOver the course of his 3 McMeals a day diet, however, Spurlock gained 25 pounds, developed depression and fatty liver damage equivalent to that of an alcoholic.  It took him over a year to lose the weight he had gained during the course of the one month experiment.  After the film “Super Size Me” was released, several other people conducted similar experiments–both controlled and uncontrolled–but with very different results.   

Now a study conducted by biologists at Linkoping University in Sweden has revealed that eating fast food even twice a day contributes to an elevated level of insulin resistance, a precursor and indicator of type II diabetes.  Subjects in the study were in good health and had BMI’s in the healthy range for their age and height.  Once the experiment began, they were asked to consume two meals at a fast-food restaurant, as well as restrict their exercise to only 5,000 steps of walking a day.  At the end of their fast food bender, a sample of the subjects’  fat cells was taken and studied to determine if insulin resistance had developed, which it had. 

This is significant for several reasons.  First, billions of dollars are spent marketing fast foods to children, whose parents often opt to feed them fast food because of the cost and convenience.  Unfortunately, though, our physiology has not kept up with our fast-paced lives–here, evolution is working against us, not with or for us.  Second, because we are in a global recession, and healthy food costs more, people are more likely to turn to fast food for a plentiful and cheap source of food.   Third, as the rate of childhood obesity and its consequent poor effects on health skyrocket, the public should be aware of studies such as the Linkoping study and others like it.  There are a great many things that are affected by the fast food industry, the health of the public and the economy being the two biggest.

How can the results of such studies be communicated to the public in a way they will understand?  What ill health effects across socioeconomic lines will fast food diets have on the population?  How will this affect the nation’s healthcare system now and in the future?  Can people ever be completely weaned off of fast food, and would this be a smart move economically? 

141 thoughts on “I’ll have a burger, some fries and a side of insulin resistance with my shake, please

  1. Mike Mansell

    I would hope that these people were compensated generously because I don’t think that I would be one that would have a hard time not taking more than 5000 steps a day. Plus on top of that eating fast food as often as I would have to if I was in this situation would tend to get old after a while if you know what I mean. Too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing.

  2. Ashley Ramdeen

    I agree with Victoria. This experiment was extremely exaggerated and the results were more than obvious. Everyone knows that if you eat fast food constantly for an extended period of time, its going to harm you.

  3. Sarah Black

    If it took a production this huge and mind-boggling to get people to understand that fast-food is harmful, I can’t imagine what kind of show it will take to get people to change their ways. Maybe a healthy version of “Super Size Me” like “Make Me Healthy” or something. I just don’t know how this country will ever be totally rid of the fast food community. It is too quick, handy, and tasty to ever run off every single fat guy.

  4. Kathryn Davis

    When I watched this documentary and heard that people sued McDonald’s because they became “obese” I laughed. I don’t mean it in a mean way, but come on people, you chose to eat there. You can’t sue someone for running a business, even if it isn’t healthy you pulled your wallet out, and it was your voice that ordered the food. People should just start eating at home and walking. They will see results trust me.

  5. Ashley Ramdeen

    I agree with the judges decision. Blaming the fast food restuarant for your own bad choices is ridiculous. Although it is partially the restaurants fault for not taking responsibilty for the nation’s obesity problem, the customers are the ones who should be blamed. I mean there are healthy alternatives… Subway, a salad etc.

  6. Kathryn Davis

    If people are truly serious about their health, they can be weaned off fast food. With the economy the way it is , there have been many websites and books and tools that have been created to save people money, and it includes stuff like how to shop at the grocery store! So in a sense you can spend about the same amount of money at McDonalds as you could at the store and make a meal loads healthier. You don’t even have to go that far. Go to Barnes and Noble and find one of those books that tell you how many calories are in things and do your math for calorie counting and stuff or watch the news! These days there are so many options, money is an excuse for them to eat poorly, and people won’t change until obesity happens to them, and they realize that they were crazy eating all that crap everyday day. I think that there should be more advertising on the family meal, the economy would probably suffer but we can handle that when it happens.

  7. Chris Latiolais

    Why would you do this to yourself? I think scientists should just feed McDonalds to mice. It wouldn’t really be helpful in convincing people to not eat fast food, but oh well.

  8. Brandon Pekarek

    While fast food is generally more convenient and cheaper, the alternatives such as fresh produce and healthy food items should not be forgotten. If money is the issue, think of all of the money you would be spending on medical bills and doctors visits. Fast food may seem economical now but if you take the future effects to heart then you will realize you will have to sacrifice much more than just money.

  9. Brandon Pekarek

    I think that the judge was completely correct in his decision to throw out the case. The only people the teens have to blame is themselves. No one can force them to eat or not eat. The law least of all.

  10. Priscilla Quach

    I completely agree with Jeffrey. Any one that has an ounce of common sense could figure out that fast food that’s loaded with grease, preservatives, and god knows what else is not going to be good for your health. People really are just wanting that instant gratification or they like the convenience of fast food. But like my dad has always told me, if it tastes good, it probably isn’t good for you.

  11. Priscilla Quach

    This guy is brave. I agree with Devon though. The only way to really make people listen is to do something this extreme. If he was more conservative in his approach to this experiment then he probably wouldn’t have gotten the shocking results he got and wouldn’t have sparked this very conversation we’re all having right now. Honestly I’m surprised the guy’s still alive.

  12. Tyler Bevan

    America loves to eat, eat cheaply, and eat quickly. We live in an increasingly fast past society where working hard no longer puts good food on the table. Instead overtime and odd jobs can only provide another safe month and cheap food. This problem cannot be so easily fixed because for some people this is not a choice, they probably know its bad but they cant do a thing about it. Its either eat this or spend the extra money which doesn’t exist. It needs to stop but its unlikely that it will. Food is a MAJOR money maker, the more costumers the more money, the big guys are not about to slow down the profit, which is a shame because they’re really the only people that can do anything about it.

  13. Ben Wise

    Money may be tight and fast-food may be convenient but there are more important things than savinga few cents on a meal. Advertising absolutely has an affect on how much we eat at these fast food places. If we saw as many commercials on the effects fast food has as we did on how much fun it is to eat, these places would be out of business.

  14. Ben Wise

    As far as communicating the results of studies done, such as the one at Linkoping University, obviously the fast food places are not willing to publicize it. If you ask me it is up to the government. If the health hazards of eating an excessive amount of fast food are possibly life-threatening then maybe we should consider a warning label like those found on cigarettes. Im laughing a little bit at the thought of seeing a skull and crossbones on my Wendy’s wrapper, but hey, its something to consider.

  15. Ellie

    My mother, and the majority of women on that side of the family, have obesity and diabetes. I have had insulin resistance, but losing a significant amount of weight helped a lot. Because of this, I don’t like to eat fast food. It makes me feel ill afterwards. However, I know a couple of people who rarely ever eat anything that doesn’t come from either a fast food joint, or their microwave. If they go too long without eating junk food, they go into withdrawl and begin to feel sick. Strangely, they are not obese. I really wonder how that works.

  16. Ashley Ramdeen

    Spurlock’s documentary approach is extremely shocking. He had a pretty accurate idea of what would happen to his health before starting the experiment and yet he continued to play his role as the lab rat. Crazy or what? I agree with Katie, I would never risk my health…EVEN for the sake of science.

  17. scienceguru Post author

    Strangely enough, there have been scientists who have done precisely that–risked their own health in the name of science. A couple of notable examples:
    –Marie Curie, who studied radioactive elements
    –Rosalind Franklin, who worked with x-rays to help determine the structure of DNA
    –Barry Marshall, the Australian doctor who swallowed a culture of H. pylori to provide solid evidence that bacteria were the cause of most peptic ulcers, not stress

    I think Spurlock wasn’t so much providing evidence for the scientific community as he was sensationalizing what could happen to someone if they were to consume nothing but junk food day in and day out for an extended period of time.

  18. Melyssa Son

    I think that fast food companies should consider healthier menus. Because of our lifestyle, most Americans depend on quick, cheap food every once in a while. Eliminating
    fast food completely is not feasible. One way that these companies could change their menu is using alternative cooking methods to frying, such as baking or steaming.

  19. kierra Pettit

    finally a judge who realizes its the people’s fault for becoming obese, not mcdonalds. Like if they didn’t want to gain weight they could get a salad, not a big mac. it’s like the people who blamed the cookie monster for their kids becoming fat. people need to start blaming themselves not everyone else.

  20. kierra Pettit

    obviously he didn’t reach out if you went to mcdonalds afterwards…haha. but really i feel quite bad for this guy because he has lifelong problems simply to try to tell americans to watch what they eat and keep up the exercise. i mean if the average american only walks roughly two miles a day its no wonder we’re obese.

  21. kierra Pettit

    its sad how much money companies spend on marketing a product that hurts the health of americans everywhere. i just hope that companies wont start trying to create some minor insulin shot so fast food appears not as unhealthy.

  22. Christina

    Documentaries like Super Size Me certainly point out to the public the negative effects of over feeding on fast food and if people still continue to eat unhealthily, then they are to blame. As long as people continue to eat unhealthy, their bodies will pay the toll, allowing for plenty of jobs to open up in the healthcare system.

  23. Rachel Trahan

    I don’t think it is possible for fast food to ever dissapear in America. Even though many of us were shown the “Super Size Me” movie in one of our classes, most of us still go out and eat McDonalds. In fact, one of my friends told me that watching that movie just made him want to go and get some french fries. The smell and taste of that food is irresistable, and no matter how much anti-adverstizing is done, people will still eat it.

  24. Rachel Trahan

    Its pretty much just like the truth commercials against smoking. They are everywhere, and yet regular smokers still smoke, and new smokers are still getting hooked.
    But here is how I see it.
    There are a million ways to die, and almost anything in the world could potentionally be bad for the health of the body. Yes its bad to eat McDonalds everyday three times a day, but the average person doesn’t do that. Just like its bad to go to the tanning bed twice a day for a year straight, but the average person doesn’t do that either.
    Everytime you get in your car to drive could be your last. Everytime you eat a steak you could get serious food poisoning. Everytime you take a walk you could get mugged and shot. So when I think about things in that percpective, little things like eating fast food because its cheaper really and it tastes delicious don’t really seem like a big deal to me.
    The key is moderation I guess.

  25. Chris Latiolais

    I like how the two teens wanted to sue McDonalds. That is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. If they would have won that case, I don’t know what I would have done. It would have been something bad though. Dang kids and their video games.

  26. Christiana Kittelson

    The results of these studies should be published in everyday literature such newspapers, magazines, possibly even tabloids.
    And not only that but the media because it would target the audience that regularly eats fast food. Instead of lofty suggestions of getting off the couch, they should sum up the risks of an unhealthy life style and some solutions to that problem. Although fastfood may be cheap and quick, there are several ways to avoid it such as eating in more. A healthy salad is filling and inexpensive. The nation’s healthcare and insurance will sky-rocket due to the severe risk of an obese patient acquiring heart disease.
    Of course people can be completely weaned off fast food and would be smart for the economy because if they were healthier, they would save money in medical bills.

  27. Christiana Kittelson

    I agree with Sara, the government’s involvement would put a damper on America’s health care system,and thus would enable the nation’s health to deteriorate because the nation would have little motivation to maintain health if their health care was free. Sometimes the best motivation is to put a big dollar sign next to our health.

  28. Christiana Kittelson

    I agree with sara, the government shouldn’t be responsible for poor decisions. Every day people make choices, thus why does this selected few get a break? Fastfood should be in moderation. Poor lifestyles that lack exercise and sensible eating habits should not be bailed out.

  29. Melyssa Son

    I agree…they should also compare different menu items and consider adjusting accordingly. Because honestly, the Asian salad at Wendy’s is pretty healthy, but is nothing compared to their “Baconator” burger.

  30. Andrea Grbavac

    I believe that the public is generally very well aware of the negative consequences and side effects associated with the consumption of fast food. However, people tend to take risks in regard to their health for the sake of convenience. I don’t believe that this will ever change, as long as fast food is easily available and inexpensive. Americans’ lives are so fast paced that convenience is a big determining factor in most decisions.

  31. Andrea Grbavac

    I think that Americans can be ‘weaned off of fast food’. However, this must occur when parents teach their children what to eat and what not to eat. With so many unhealthy foods readily available to children and adults alike, it is often difficult to opt for the healthy, bland food over the tasty, sugary concoction. I believe that it is the responsibility of the parent to educate their child on health matters, since habit alone can be responsible for the consumption of fast food.

  32. Lauren Miller

    Fast food is very addicting because it is always available and quick to grab on the go during people’s busy schedules. The public is very interested in the effects of fast food studies and their health effects. I think by posting news articles, creating facebook awareness groups and showing news stories, the public could be well informed.

  33. Lauren Miller

    I don’t think people will ever be weaned off fast food because it is so convenient and fast. Without fast food a lot of people across America would be unemployed and the economy would go down. Fast food may be bad for people’s health, but it is vital to a healthy economy.

  34. Meghan

    Holy cow!!
    That’s ridiculous…
    I don’t eat McDonald’s but…it’s cause I got food poisoning there once…Haha, I’m glad I don’t…considering all of these ridiculous side affects…I think since that movie they have taken some extra steps to remove trans fat and such….

  35. Meghan

    What makes fast food so much worse than any other food??
    Is it the way they process it or the deep frying or what…..
    I’ve never really gotten that…

  36. Mayra Ramirez

    Fast food restaurants should definitely consider offering healthier menus. They practically define America, so it would be really difficult to urge people to completely wean off of fast food. The only other option is to serve a salad instead of french fries.

  37. Mayra Ramirez

    Yes I must agree with the judge and say that the teens have no one to blame but themselves.They are ultimately the ones who decide what to eat. They could have definitely made healthier choices. But where are their parents in all of this? Do they not realize that their children’s lives may be at stake here?

  38. Mayra Ramirez

    Wow I respect this courageous man for what he has done. He seems to have opened up a lot of people’s eyes. It seems that a lot more people realize the serious health effects that come with constant fast food dining.

  39. Gabrielle

    I recall that during his expeirment he met a guy that ate like 3 bigmacs a day. The thing about the guy was that he was perfectly healthy and had a decent celestoral and was pretty skinny. Oddly though, he said he never ate fries and rarely had soda with his bigmacs, maybe too much blame is going on the main corses and not enough on the sugary and fatty extras.

  40. Gabrielle

    I foresee in the future that the same advertising bans that are put on tobacoo products will be put on fast food. No cartoony mascots, no adversising in magasines and so forth. I think it will really help keep kids from whinning to their poor stressed out moms for french fries and slushies if this happens.

  41. Gabrielle

    Well Meghan, it is a bit of how it is processed, some of how it is cooked, alot of how big the portions, quility of food comes in, but mostly it is people no knowing what they are putting in their body. The meat used is fatty and greasy because it is cheaper to prepare and faster to cook, because it is cheaper they give large servings with a large amount of quility. How they cook is a big deal, if you take a peace of chicken a fry it, it just makes it a lot less healthy, depending on what you fry it in.

    Fast food places are required to post nutirantion lables, but alot of places don’t have it in acessiable places, so people eat more then they should, or would in a normal house hold home cooked suitiation.

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