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Super Size Me

 Super Size Me - Unsafe At Any Size
by Dennis Lim (Village Voice Media)
May 3, 2004


My big fat American heart attack
Eating 90 straight meals at McDonald's to prove a point Unsafe At Any Size.

Appetite suppressant, frat-boy stunt, and anti-corporate headbutt all in one juicy if not always wholesome package, Super Size Me records the consequences of a 30-day McDonald's-only diet, ratcheting up amused horror as the month of increasingly Unhappy Meals takes a nightmarish toll on its test subject. Morgan Spurlock's self-starring documentary has nothing new to say about America's fast-food addiction and obesity epidemic, but there's no denying its grotesque effectiveness. Conflating activism and performance art, the filmmaker's method does not preclude a few well-timed hits below the (greatly loosened) belt.

Ronald and me: Spurlock
(photo: Roadside Attractions Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Super Size Me breezes through some distressing, familiar stats about obesity-related illnesses, but Spurlock, for better or worse, is as slick a salesman as your average fast-food movie tie-in marketing executive: He understands that when it comes to illustrating the perils of a McDiet, nothing does the job like a freshly upchucked double quarter pounder with cheese.

This is one perversely disciplined binge: For the duration, Spurlock must eat three squares a day, everything he consumes has to be ordered off a McDonald's menu, and he's compelled to accept every time the Super Size option is offered (the first time this happens, the sheer strain of finishing his lunch causes him to promptly lose it). And since a pedestrian New Yorker gets more exercise than the typical car-to-cubicle American, he restricts himself to walking no more than a mile a day. The extremity of the experiment would seem to undermine its statistical credibility, but as Spurlock points out—and reminds us with spliced-in shots of face-obscured waddlers and man-on-the-street interviews with the nutritionally oblivious—this nutty regimen isn't that far from how most Americans already live.

The 32-year-old Spurlock begins the month in perfect health, and proceeds under the supervision of a general practitioner, a gastroenterologist, a cardiologist, and a nutritionist. Within days, he's suffering chest pressure and headaches. His first post-Mac Attack weigh-in shows he's gained 10 pounds in five days. His vegan-chef girlfriend, Alex, complains that their sex life is affected: "I have to be on top." But the blood-test results prove less easy to milk for laughs: Blood sugar, uric acid, and cholesterol are all way up, and his liver enzymes, struggling to cope with the spike in fat and sugar intake, have increased tenfold. Two weeks in, his flustered GP tells him, "Your liver is like pâté." By week three, a fatigued, bloated Spurlock is on his way to cirrhosis. The single most harrowing image in Super Size Me isn't the regurgitated burger or the gratuitous glimpse of gastric-bypass surgery, but Spurlock—having just been compared by his doctor to Nicolas Cage's liver-pickling boozer in Leaving Las Vegas—slumped on his couch, miserably unwrapping his umpteenth McDonald's burger, and . . . taking another bite.

In between pig-outs, Spurlock visits school cafeterias to confirm that the national diet of processed food begins at an early age and that fast-food advertising targets kids, in the sinister hopes that they'll stay hooked for life. (Noting that McDonald's terms its frequent patrons "heavy users," Spurlock scores images of a prancing, evil-grinned Ronald McDonald to "Pusherman.") Interviews with dietitians notwithstanding, Spurlock is generally too busy chowing down to zoom out for socioeconomic and ideological context—i.e., to consider fast food as the homogenized, globalized mass-opiate big business that it is, and to ask tough questions about food safety and labor conditions, not to mention the political protectionism that keeps consumers and profit margins fat. (The missed opportunities are doubly frustrating since Eric Schlosser's superb Fast Food Nation suggests so many possible paths of inquiry.)

Still, Spurlock's feeding frenzy may have already dented the Golden Arches to an impressive degree—watching the film, you can easily imagine the panicked internal memos. McDonald's is scrapping its Super Size option and introducing an adult Happy Meal that comes with a pedometer. Super Size Me has also inspired predictable attacks from free-market activists—in at least one case a counter-demonstration that "proves" weight can be lost while scarfing burgers.

Super Size Me sometimes exerts the gross-out fascination of reality TV's muckier specimens—its arc suggests a slow-motion Fear Factor, or Extreme Makeover in reverse. Indeed, Spurlock, whose affable-doofus persona is somewhere between Johnny Knoxville and Michael Moore, was responsible for MTV's cash-for-stunts series I Bet You Will, and is preparing an SSM-modeled show called 30 Days. But none of this should detract from the importance of Super Size Me as a work of public health advocacy. Fighting grease with grease, it's a film that has its severely taxed heart in the right place.




Human Nutrition - A multibillion dollar battlefield
Schnitzer, J.G., MD. (2003, April). Human nutrition:
a multibillion dollar battlefield. Alive, 88-91.

April 22, 2003

Supplying hundreds of millions of people with daily food and drink is big business. Each company competes to entice you to choose its products. You're assaulted with television advertising, newspaper, magazine, radio and billboards--until you succumb.

Doctors and scientists are hired to research and document the positive effects of products. Negative, independent information rarely hits the media. It's called "marketing."  It's really "lying by omission."

There is a strange paradox in the rood industry. The lower the health value of packaged foodstuff, the higher its price! I'll give you an example. Compare a bag of freshly harvested carrots with a can of carrots that has gone through a processing factory. The highest nutritional value is obviously in the fresh carrots, yet the canned carrots will cost you much more, ounce for ounce. Because you don't only pay for the carrots. You pay for the tin, the machines needed for processing, the process itself, the bank credit and interest rates for the machines and the cost of the factory building. You also absorb the salaries of the workers and provide profit for the factory owners.

It's called "enrichment" or "improvement" processing. But the only "enrichment" is in the wallets of the factory owners through the insidious process of refining, extracting, dehydrating, sterilizing-even radiating-what was once nourishing food. You may be sure the farmer does not get rich!

Grainy goodness

One of the most lucrative lies in food processing is when manufacturers sell you "enriched" and/or "improved" cereal grain. All components of the grain are separated and sold individually. Producers of "concentrated feed" for animals buy the cereal fiber, or bran. It's also sold to pharmaceutical companies who extract the vitamins and sell them to you as "food supplements." The life, or the germ, of the grain is removed and sold as a nutritious food "additive" to sprinkle on your cereal. The starch component becomes "refined fine flour." That's what you use for baking, thinking you're getting the best! You're not. You're getting a product with all the food "value" removed and you're charged a high price for it! And because of the nutritional deficiency in this "refined" product, your health suffers.

Another lucrative "enrichment process" is to feed the grain, usually wheat, barley and oats, to animals and then sell you the meat. If you compare the price of one pound of wheat, for instance, and one pound of beef you'll get the profit picture. Do you see the trick? I call it this Profit Center No. 1.

Medical/pharmaceutical politics

Profit Center No. 2 deals with the ailments of civilization as a result of malnutrition. This profitable modern medical industry thrives as a result of the processed food industry.

A lifetime of eating food that has been extracted, refined and denatured until it is actually unfit for human consumption has caused the present epidemic of chronic diseases and degeneration of health. As inevitable side-effects of Profit Center No. 1, each generation is less fit that the one before, resulting in both physical and mental degeneration, allergies and disease.

Diseases require medical treatment, don't they? They need drugs, surgery, machine technology for tests, hospitals and hospitalization, doctors and nurses-it goes on and on. The chronic ailments of civilization have become the multibillion-dollar business that keeps sufferers "on the hook" with prescription drugs-all of which have side effects-so that these people never really get well. Curing them would be an economic disaster for modern medicine!

Medication to suppress the ailments of our chronically ill civilization is also the basis of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. Chronically ill people need permanent medication, which creates permanent demand and adds up to sales, income, earnings and high profits. Check the high prices of both over-the-counter and prescription drugs! Manufacturing medicine that would "cure" chronic diseases would be an economic disaster for the drug industry. You don't see breweries producing beer that would satisfy thirst for a lifetime, do you?

The side-effects of modern drugs are often so serious that the patient needs one medication to correct the problems of another. But that also has side-effects that need to be medicated-and so on and on-ad infinitum. It's an ideal sales strategy! How many chronic sufferers take vacations with full bags of drugs and a schedule to remind them when, what, how often and how many pills they must take?

Then there are the operations. Years of daily drugging and poor diet produce deterioration and organ breakdown, brain and tissue degeneration, bone disease-all requiring surgery and medication, usually both. There are hip replacements, bypass operations, kidney failure and dialysis machines-all modern medical technology. All increase the income of modern medicine and the pharma/technological industry. They support one another because both profit centers have common interests. They want to keep their profits going-and growing.

The truth will set you free-of disease

There's one serious danger to all these moneymaking industries: consumers of denatured foodstuffs might discover the truth about this 100-year-long deception! Many are already waking up to whole food nutrition, despite strategies used by international food processing companies to obscure the truth. What foods can make us healthy and free us from slavery to sickness?

Seeds: Grass seeds (teff and amaranth), cereal grains (developed from grass seeds), nuts, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), flower seeds (sunflower seeds). They're full of energy, protein, essential vitamins (especially B complex and vitamin E), minerals and plant compounds known as phytochemicals, which help protect against disease. Many also contain beneficial essential fatty acids in which westernized populations are so deficient.

Roots: Root vegetables such as carrots, radish, turnips, beets, arrowroot, beets, kohlrabi, leek, potato and rutabaga. It is well known that a diet rich in vegetables is a vital component in warding off degenerative diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. This also includes soft leaf vegetables: lettuce and other greens, cabbage and plant sprouts such as asparagus. Fruits provide a wealth of protective and healing nutrients, especially bananas, grapes, apples, pears and berries such as blueberries and cranberries.

This simple diet contains everything we need to maintain health, to produce healthy offspring and even to cure most chronic ailments of civilization caused by denatured foods, inappropriate eating habits and the profit-driven modern food, drug and medicine industries.

Dr. Johann Georg Schnitzer is author and editor of Dr. Schnitzer's Health Secrets Service" at He has written more than 20 books with some hundreds of thousands of published copies, and numerous studies, essays and articles. His most important goal: a synthesis of civilization and health, to allow humankind a healthy and happy life in an ecological balance with a rich, healthy, respected and well-kept nature.

Schnitzer, J.G., MD. (2003, April). Human nutrition: a multibillion dollar battlefield. Alive, 88-91.
Article: Human Nutrution- a multibillian dollar battlefield
Author: Dr. Johann Georg Schnitzer
Pages: 88-91
Date: April 2003
Source: Alive magazine
Publisher: Alive Publishing Group, INC.