Well, I take it all back – eating highly processed red meat in a white bun must be healthy. All this time I was thinking that a WFPB diet is the one to go for if you want to do all you can to live a long and disease-free life. Now where’s the closest McDonald’s?
A newspaper report1 recently eulogised “MacDaddy” Don’s amazing feat – eating his 30,000th Big Mac, a dietary delight that is reported to constitute between 90 and 95% of Don’s diet.
Remember the documentary called “Supersize Me”2 released in 2004, where for one month Morgan Spurlock eats only foods that McDonald’s sells?
“As a result, the then-32-year-old Spurlock gained 11.1 kilograms (24 lb), a 13% body mass increase, increased his cholesterol to 230 mg/dL, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation in his liver. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose all the weight gained from his experiment using a vegan diet supervised by his then-girlfriend, a chef who specializes in gourmet vegan dishes.”3
Spurlock investigated McDonald’s because of the massive increase in obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases that’s decimating American society. The US Surgeon General declared this wave of obesity an “epidemic”.4
A failed lawsuit5 was brought against McDonald’s with reference to a couple of girls who claimed they’d become obese as a result of eating McDonald’s food.
McDonald’s know how to fight their corner – and why wouldn’t they, with the limitless funds they have? Back in 1997, McDonald’s brought the infamous “McLibel case” 6 against two environmental activists who wrote a factsheet about the company. McDonald’s were embarrassed when British courts of law upheld the activists’ right to publish the document, since its allegations were largely accurate. Eventually McDonald’s upturned the court’s ruling and were even awarded damages.7 8 Afterwards, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled9 in Steel & Morris v United Kingdom that the two activists had been denied a fair trial, in breach of Article 6 of the ECHR and their conduct should have been protected by Article 10 of the Convention, which protects the right to freedom of expression. The UK government were fined £57,000 by the ECHR.
There’s a documentary film, called “McLibel”10 made about this case.
Even though the initial lawsuit against McDonald’s failed, Spurlock and others argue that this sort of “fast food” can be criticised in the same way as the tobacco industry was criticised – and eventually taken to task by the courts for their dishonest and damaging relationship with their consumers.
McD’s and all other processed red meat is categorised as a Class 1 carcinogen and unprocessed red meat is categorised as a class 2A carcinogen by the WHO (World Health Organisation)11 . But this isn’t the only reason why Spurlock and others consider there’s such a link up with the history of legal battles against the tobacco industry; the reason they attack fast food franchises is primarily because their products are both physiologically addictive and physically harmful.
This is discussed in great detail by Dr Neal Barnard in his book “Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings and Seven Steps to End Them Naturally.”12 And there’s a growing consensus among scientists13 that fast food is no different from drugs in terms of its addictive qualities.
So, where does this leave us with MacDaddy Don? He claims that his health is great – low cholesterol and good blood pressure readings at his latest checkup. Well, his cholesterol is reported to be above 160, which is within the “High” (that is, potentially dangerous) level14 . I have no idea what his actual blood pressure readings are, but if they are classed as “normal” for the US population, then they are likely to be higher than one would call healthy.15 But even if we allow that this particular man is managing to survive (not sure I can risk saying “thrive”) on this Monster Mac diet, there’s something rather sinister and worrying about the effect that this newspaper article might have on the largely-unquestioning general public. And many other media outlets covered this story in a similarly euphoric manner16 17 , with some sites even calling him a “hero”!18 .
What stories like this do is to add to the confusion about which foods are really healthy. People will read about this guy and say “Ah well, if he’s doing fine eating 90-odd percent Big Macs, then there’s no reason that I should change my diet.” And the results of the confusion are everywhere to be seen – with over half of US and UK citizens being classed as overweight or obese!19 20
Of course McDonald’s are behind the promotion of stories like this one. And of course they will laud this one person’s crazy story while totally ignoring the millions and millions of other people’s horror stories of obesity, diabetes21 , cancer22 , heart disease & stoke23 and so on, shown to be the result of eating a high animal fat/protein & low fruit/veg diet24 25 . After all, it’s just business…
- i News: ‘Mac Daddy’ makes history by eating 30,000th McDonald’s Big Mac.
- Supersize Me. Morgan Spurlock.
- Wikipedia: Supersize Me
- Surgeon General:”The Obesity Crisis in America”
- McFat Litigation I – Pelman v. McDonald’s Corp., 237 F.Supp.2d 512 (S.D.N.Y. Jan 22, 2003
- McDonald’s Corporation v Steel & Morris  EWHC QB 366
- “McLibel pair get police payout”. BBC. 5 July 2000. “‘McLibel’ pair in fresh court bid”. BBC. 7 September 2004. “McLibel: Longest case in English history”. BBC. 15 February 2005.
- “McDonald’s lets McLibel case rest”. AP. 19 July 1997. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008.
- Press release issued by the Registrar. “Chamber Judgment Steel and Morris v. The United Kingdom” The European Court of Human Rights, 15 February 2005. Received 1 September 2008.
- McLibel: Full Documentary on YouTube
- WHO: Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat
- Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings and Seven Steps to End Them Naturally by Neal Barnard, M.D., St. Martin’s Press (June 2003)
- Laurance, Jeremy (January 30, 2003). “Fast food is addictive in same way as drugs, say scientists”. The Independent. London. Archived from the original on May 11, 2010.
- Cleveland Clinic: Cholesterol Numbers: What Do They Mean
- Nearly half of U.S. adults could now be classified with high blood pressure, under new definitions By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
- McDonald’s record holder eats his 30,000th Big Mac — and he won’t stop there.
- Daily Mail: Wisconsin man, 64, eats his 30,000TH McDonald’s Big Mac after consuming two each day for more than four decades.
- THE VICE GUIDE TO RIGHT NOW: This American Hero Ate 30,000 Big Macs and Survived
- IHME: The vast majority of American adults are overweight or obese, and weight is a growing problem among US children
- Wikipedia: Obesity in the United Kingdom
- WHO: Diabetes Worldwide Increase
- Cancer Research UK: Why are cancer rates increasing?
- WHO: The Atlas of Heart Disease and Stroke
- Adv Nutr. 2012 Jul; 3(4): 506–516. Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. Joanne L. Slavin, and Beate Lloyd
- Animal vs. Plant Protein. October 29, 2013. By T. Colin Campbell, PhD