The Nation's Health + [Nutrition]

Nutrition: Super size me in little bits and pieces

Healthcare

Alvin came into the office for consultation on his cholesterol values: LDL 198 mg/dl, HDL, 43 mg/dl, triglycerides 143 mg/dl. He says that he doesn't really try to choose healthy foods but he restricts his overall calorie intake by following the Weight Watcher's exchange approach.

Every morning, 7 days a week, Alvin eats a Sausage McMuffin for breakfast. He justified this by skipping lunch to make up for the 450 calories in the Sausage McMuffin, and not eating anything until dinner.

Can this work? Can you eat foods with unhealthy ingredients but make up the excessive calories by cutting back elsewhere?

The nutritional composition of McDonald's Sausage McMuffin includes 27 grams of total fat (10 gm saturated); 255 mg cholesterol; 950 mg sodium; 31 gm carbohydrate; 2 grams fiber. In other words, it's essentially the same as butter with sugar on it--pure fat, processed wheat, with little fiber or nutritive value.

For Alvin, this is an extremely unhealthy way to eat. His lipid patterns are just the tip of the iceberg: multiple hidden factors are also at work to create heart disease, atherosclerosis in other territories outside the heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.

I think the effects are not much different than what Morgan Spurlock achieved in his Super Size Me documentary, but in little bits and pieces. Eating at McDonald's "restaurants" three times a day yielded frightening changes in his lipids, liver function, kidney function, not to mention his appearance and the way he felt. Alvin is doing the same thing, though in less dramatic fashion.

I see this very frequently: people mimicking the experience of Spurlock, just a little at a time, with overindulgence in processed fats and starches.

When you seen a set of Mcdonald's golden arches (or any fast food restaurant, for that matter), run as fast as you can in the other direction. Such indulgences, even in small bits and pieces, still creates a mess of your health.