Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Will McDonald's Breakfasts Kill You?

It's rare that in one post I get to cover research and Big Food quobesity, but clearly today's going to be a special day.

First the research.

A study published in this week's Journal of Nutrition compared the after effects of eating either a) 830 Calories of high fat McDonald's breakfast items (2 hash browns, 1 Sausage McMuffin and 1 Egg McMuffin) vs b) 820 Calories of low fat sugary breakfast items (Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, skim milk, fat free yogurt, a Kellogg's fruit loop bar and Sunny Delight orange juice). The meals were controlled for salt by having the low fat test group also consume 1,000mg of salt to make things even. Researchers then watched subjects performing "stress tasks" which included arithmetic, public speaking, pain tolerance, and cold tolerance and measured their blood pressure responses throughout.

What was found was that folks with the high fat preload had significantly higher blood pressure responses to all of these stressors along with higher total peripheral resistance. This led the authors to conclude,

"a single high-fat meal may lead to heightened cardiovascular reactivity in healthy, normotensive individuals"
or more simply, high-fat meals may temporarily give high blood pressure to folks whose blood pressures are usually normal.

Frankly the study didn't excite me that much which is why I didn't report on it yesterday. It only had 30 subjects, didn't report how long this effect lasted and really, how stressful is the time immediately following a meal for most folks?

Now the Quobesity.

While the study might not have excited me too much, I absolutely loved McDonald's press release this morning on the matter. Here it is in its entirety though I've highlighted the bits I like best:
"While we appreciate ongoing health and wellness research, we're disappointed that this preliminary study does not tell the whole nutrition story at McDonald's and makes broad conclusions based on only one combination of menu items.

At McDonald's Canada, we're proud of our food and have been a leader in serving quality breakfast options for more than 30 years. We have always believed in the sound nutritional principles of balance, variety and moderation and that McDonald's can be part of any balanced, active lifestyle.

The breakfast combination used in the report provides only a small example of a much larger menu from which to choose. For example, many of our customers do enjoy a balanced breakfast consisting of an Egg McMuffin, Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait and small orange juice, all of which combine elements from the four food groups and fall within recommended daily values as outlined in Canada's Food Guide.

We're always listening to our customers and have been a leader in providing them with complete nutrition information, both in our restaurants and online at, to help them make responsible choices that are right for them and their lifestyles."
McDonald's you guys are the best. Thank you for looking out for me and my family. I know our health means much more to you than your bottom line and your press release this morning certainly proves that. Please ignore all of those naysayers who get mad at small things like exploitative advertising targeting children, portions that are larger than anyone could argue are healthy and the overt hucking of larger sized foods as being of great value. You guys are the Kings and Queens of nutritional advocacy - don't let anyone ever tell you different.

(FYI: If you think the meal consumed at McDonald's was excessive and not representative of McDonald's breakfasts you might be right - some have more Calories and more fat. Eat the McDonald's Deluxe Breakfast pictured at the top of this post and according to the McDonald's website you'll be having 1,380 Calories with 67 total grams of fat including 13 grams of trans fat. YUMMY! Think it's a coincidence that the item ID on the hyperlinked URL is 6666?)