Friday, September 17, 2004

What regular people think about McDonald's...

A school in Kent has been suffering staff shortages, so decided to give Big Macs to children for two days one week. Parents were delighted, seeing it as a treat, not as the terrible health threat that campaigners and officials would have them believe.

It's enough to make you a bit peckish.

BBC NEWS | England | Kent | School puts Big Macs on the menu

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Children may eat rubbish, but adults have more mature eating habits

This might seem obvious, but apparently not to health educators. Here's some concrete evidence to back up this common sense notion.

BBC NEWS | Health | Diet gets healthier as people age

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Super Size Fears

Last weekend saw the UK release of Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me. Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's super-size meals for a month, gaining nearly two stone and massively elevated cholesterol in the process.

The film has provoked joy from obesity experts and anti-fast food campaigners. McDonald's has responded with big advertising campaigns that criticise the film but concede most of its points. The burger chain has also removed super-size options from the menu, a move it describes as 'unrelated' to the film. 'McDonald's is trying to convince people that their stuff is a legitimate meal, and that you can eat it every day', says Spurlock. He believes McDonald's should be more open about the lack of nutrition in its food.

As Professor Tom Sanders notes on Spiked, 'the best advice at present is to focus on achieving a balanced diet, rather than demonising or promoting certain foods.' Only an idiot would think that eating nothing but one kind of fast food for a month represented the best possible lifestyle. Spurlock was force-feeding himself, consuming as much as 5,000 calories a day - about double the usual daily requirements for a man - and doing absolutely no exercise. No wonder he felt unwell.

But even an unrelenting diet of McDonald's food is not necessarily bad for you. As Dr Ruth Kava of the American Council on Science and Health notes, such a diet may be low in one or two minerals and vitamins, and higher in saturated fat than is usually recommended. But actually, on most measures, such a diet would be entirely satisfactory. Try eating nothing but fruit for a month - the effect would be much worse.

Super Size Me might make good comedy, but it's feeble science. What is so disappointing is that Spurlock's film, whose best moments have more in common with gross-out self-abuse films like Jackass than serious documentary, has been given such a reverent hearing - because it keys into the overblown panic about obesity, and the contempt for big corporations. It also appeals to a certain snobbery about McDonald's, among those who prefer their body to be 'a temple', not look like one.

Like a month of Big Macs and milkshakes, it's enough to make you sick.

spiked-central | Panic | Don't panic

[NB: Having seen the film, I've been inspired to try my own McDiet. I'm sure that it is possible to eat three squares a day at Mickey D's and lose weight. There's simply no such thing as junk food. I'm only on day three, but you can follow my progress at Rob's McDiet.]