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Jul 30, 2014 01:04 AM

Does Fast Food Really Make People Fat?

Does McDonald's Really Make People Fat?
I Think the question I meant to ask was…. Do guns kill people? Or do people kill people? My response would be that people kill people. So why do people blame fast food chains for selling large value meals? Better question why would the government regulate the amount of food we can purchase at one time (like New York city making a law about the amount of soda sold at a time). Are we sheep that are incapable of making our own decisions? Should we look to the government to regulate everything down to what we eat?

Or, should we act like adults and admit that obesity is something we can control (at least to an extent) and claim some kind of responsibility for our own actions instead of blaming good in your face advertising. I walked into a gas station one day to hear an attendant stating that “McDonald’s should stop selling large meals because it’s making people fat”. To be honest I had too many mean things to say to this woman to open my mouth about what I thought about such an ignorant statement. People need to admit that THEY THEMSELVES control their actions, not some outside source that some may let control their lives. I for one wouldn’t let the government tell me I can’t order a large coke, or let a corporation “decide” for me what I will do. I have yet to figure out how to combat ignorance of such nature, but if you do, please let me know…

I do have a website with a few recipes if anyone would like to check it out. I won’t force you to look though. Ha!!!

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  1. People who disagree with you are not necessarily "ignorant", they have a different social, economic and political outlook. I could respond that socio-economic status is the greatest determinant in health status (including obesity), and that is even in countries such as Canada and the UK where we have national health systems.

    What would be the point of such an argument? You aren't going to make me a libertarian, and I'm not going to convince you of the merits of social democracy.

    It isn't a question of government or corporations "telling" people what to do, but of the creation of an obesogenic environment, which is as much a matter of carcentric development as of the prevalence of crap food, especially for people of limited means.

    14 Replies
      1. re: lagatta

        Well I almost found your argument compelling (I had to look up the meaning of "obesogenic" lol) I myself started out quite poor. In fact I'm barely middle class now. I fail to understand why people submit to the nature of being sheep and blaming the circumstances and the environment in which they live. I moved out of the poor neighborhood and looked for a better job to escape such a lousy environment. I am unable to understand why I should feel sorry for people who allow themselves to stay poor and eat lousy food as a result. The poor shouldn't be given money and state aid, they should be educated on how to make money and how to budget what they have. The idea that people should just blame everyone and everything else for their lives are simply is appalling.

        1. re: CodyJWRobinson

          Ah, well if it worked for you, then the other poor people are probably just too damn lazy to follow your shining example.

          1. re: linguafood

            Of course! Don't ya know all 313 million people here, living in America, can ALL have a good job, ALL make a good living, and ALL buy good quality food? Plenty of good paying jobs for everyone....except the lazy's. World economic problems are a myth, made up by media ;)

            1. re: sedimental

              No I don't think its a myth there's an economic problem, I'm just saying I know alot of people who just accept what they have instead of looking to do better. Furthermore if people would stop and think in some ways we've allowed the corporations to pay us less and less because many people live in fear of what would happen if they stood up for themselves and got a good wage. In my state minimum wage is 7.40 an hour if i had a job that pays me 8$ an hour I couldn't live without state aid. I would place little value on that job and honestly wouldn't care if i was fired because I know I have what it takes to find another cheap job. So many people have settled for chump change alot of companies won't pay anymore because theres so many people who will accept 8$ or less an hour. If everyone stopped being afraid and stood up for themselves we'd be getting a better wage, but too many people are afraid and cling to their low wage jobs. I worked at McDonalds for five years and 8 months out of EVERY year they were looking for help...

              1. re: CodyJWRobinson

                Well, then we get into issues of unionizing and how the government does/doesn't regulate that and all sorts of other issues.

                Mexico right now is the most obese country in the world. Mexico also has a high population living in poverty and food insecure (a cheap and dirty answer as to why Mexico is #1 is that there's a huge presence of various sugar drinks/sodas in the diet). If anything a new problem facing the world in general are children who are both obese and food insecure.

                There is a lot of individual and family issues at play with obesity. And a lot of societal issues. Which is why thinking a government is going to 'fix' this problem is flawed and also why a strict libertarian approach is flawed. The #1 cause of being an obese adult is being an obese child. Soapbox all away about adults with individual responsibility for what goes in their mouths - but for most people, their weight as an adult is determined by choices made for them when they were children.

                So then what? Take all obese children away from their parents and put them in foster care (more government involvement)? Make sure that all foster care families follow strict dietary protocols (even more government involvement AND probably a decline in adults that would qualify to be foster parents)? Or just tell obese 18 year olds (who possibly don't have strong food knowledge and possibly already have compromised health) - now you're an adult, so figure it out and be different.

                It's easy to assume that these bad choices happen in vacuums that are all easy to compare to one another. But that's just not how obesity works.

                1. re: CodyJWRobinson

                  You're blaming people for "allowing" corporations for paying them less? That's really blaming the victims!

                  1. re: chowser

                    Yea I forgot we're all helpless victims lol. The whole point of the post was people need to stop blaming others for their problems and you went right back to why I started this post. Stop Being A Victim man!!!

                    1. re: CodyJWRobinson

                      What's unclear in regards to your "stop being a victim" perspective though is how you expect that to look. In terms of the rates that corporations are willing to pay workers - how do you propose that to be addressed? A higher minimum wage (change by the government)? Unionizing/striking (workers rights platform)?

                      'Stop being a victim' is fine on a t-shirt, but at this time it doesn't feel like fully formed idea.

                      1. re: cresyd

                        It's not a fully formed idea. It's almost the opposite of a fully formed idea. It's a shortcut in one's thinking that prevents you from empathizing with almost anyone and maybe even taking the steps necessary as a person, a neighbor, a citizen, or a member of an institution to ensure that you're giving your fellow man a fair shake.

                        Ironically, the life philosophy of 'stop being a victim; take responsibility' serves mainly as a way to dodge personal responsibility.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I agree with you completely.

                          In general, I also find that any 'completist' political philosophy (whether it be libertarian or communist) at some point makes a wild leap about all people somehow behaving all alike. Which in terms of philosophies about people, I think one of the safest ones to have is that people never function exactly the same.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            Black and white answers for grey questions . . .

                        2. re: CodyJWRobinson

                          While no one wants to be a victim - EVER - may I suggest that you stop judging people until you have walked a mile or so in their shoes? Congrats on getting yourself out of a bad life situation! Many others have done so as well, and they've taken a different path than you have. Others have SLID into a bad situation. Nobody just SLIDES into a bad situation, you say? You're not paying attention to the news, or even worse, to the people around you.

                          Stuff happens. No two people react the same. No two people have the same issues to deal with. Develop some compassion, and keep your eyes on your own life instead of sitting in judgement on others when you are completely clueless about their lives and their issues.

                          1. re: jiffypop

                            Another point is that someone "entrepreneurial" might well choose to remain in his or her "bad" neighbourhood and foster local businesses and other initiatives to create jobs for local people. Nobody wants to be on the dole.

              1. This presents a false dichotomy for the apparent purpose of putting the entire responsibility for obesity on the individual. The problem of increasing prevalence of obesity is more complicated than that, and it has been much discussed in these forums. Certainly people do have primary responsibility for their food choices, but there are other factors at work, especially economic.

                3 Replies
                1. re: GH1618

                  Certainly. And the prevalence of advertising, a lot of which is aimed at children and teenagers, makes it challenging for young adults, who are bearing more children, to have a whole understanding of healthy food choices. The child abuser certainly makes the choice to hit or not hit his children, but if he has been beaten his whole life then it is all he knows. The same could be said for poor eating, addiction, and so on. Many who want to limit portion sizes and advertising of fast food corporations, as well as educate children on healthy choices, are just trying to give those in low socio-economic backgrounds a fighting chance. The fact that you (OP) came from a low socio-economic background but are able to think critically about and make healthier choices is probably a testament to your intelligence or upbringing or something else. Something right happened along the way that sadly doesn't happen for a lot of people in poverty.

                  1. re: 16crab

                    Well thanks, the message i was trying to get across was people need to think for themselves and stop acting as if we are helpless victims all the time. Your right about the child abuser, it would be difficult for that person to change. As an adult though there has to be a time to realize that the past is no more only the present and the future are now. I doubt that a judge and jury would feel little sympathy for an adult abusing a child regardless of his or her background.

                    1. re: CodyJWRobinson

                      When people are stressed, they eat "comfort food" (fatty, salty thngs). Poor people are stressed. Sleep deprivation also causes stress (try working three jobs to make ends meet!).

                      Poor people very, very rarely want to be fat, because they can't afford diabetes.

                2. Well, plenty of non-fat people eat at McDonalds and the like and plenty of fat people never set foot in such a place

                  poor diet choices and sedentary lifestyle makes some people fat (not all people mind you) genetics and body chemistry also play a role.

                  you can blame government subsidies of commodity crops and beef, you can blame government subsidies of gasoline and roads. Poor education on nutrition. All of these things are contributors.

                  out side of genetics (some folks do put on weight easier than others) its the whole of the typical USA lifestyle that is cause for increase in obesity - there is no ONE to blame its a systemic problem - It is also a cultural one where "We" - and I will use that term broadly - do not place nutrition or consumption of quality food at the center of our lives.

                  There is nothing wrong with McDonalds as a quick bite in a busy day, just like there is nothing wrong with a piece of chocolate cake but when it becomes your sustenance that's a problem

                  I would not isolate it to fast food though - its all of the processed stuff that has slipped into our lives and the inordinate amount of sugar, particularly HFCS contained in much of this food

                  We are all to blame for ceding control of what we eat to a food industry with a powerful lobby who want to make sure we consume and spend as much money on the cheapest and lowest quality food possible - we allowed them to determine our future with farm bills that favor industry, big food and GMO commodity crops and not local farmers as we gobbled up snackwells and covered friable land with cul d sacs of vinyl McMansions

                  25 Replies
                  1. re: JTPhilly

                    If it was cheaper to buy a healthy salad than a burger and fries I think we would be much healthier as a nation.....

                    1. re: Ttrockwood

                      I'm not so sure. We've evolved to stock up on sugars and fats when they're available. And now they are cheap and abundant.

                      1. re: hal2010

                        Consumption of sugar is a modern phenomenon. Evolution has nothing to do with it.

                          1. re: hal2010

                            That's one person's opinion and I'm not buying it. The sugar that is found directly in fruits had an evolutionary advantage for the fruit-bearing plants, but fruits were a small part of the human diet. Our sugar was mostly derived from complex carbohydrates rather than taken in directly.

                            I do see the point, however, but think it's a cop-out which is not helpful. Many people who are obese don't want to be, and telling them it can't be helped because we were made that way just doesn't do it for me. Those of us who are successful in keeping our weight under control are products of the same evolution.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              It's the "opinion" of an expert in human evolution from Harvard. Flooding our food choices with cheap junk food is not helping anyone, no matter how strong-willed and virtuous they may be.

                              1. re: hal2010

                                "Junk" food is not well defined. It's the increased amount of sugar in many foods in recent years that is making people fat, in my opinion. That is not my original idea, but Dr. Lustig's, who has convonced me.

                                A lot of food that people might think of as "junk" is not particularly bad.

                                1. re: hal2010

                                  Here's the crux of the problem. A useful theory of obesity prevalence has to account for the sudden rise in the obesity prevalence beginning in the mid-1970s:


                                  Evolution cannot explain that. Evolution cannot produce significant changes in a population in a few decades. People are the same today as they were in 1970, but fatter.

                                  1. re: GH1618

                                    When did the onslaught if High Fructose Corn Syrup happen? I'm not saying people have evolved to be fatter in 20 years. My point is that humans (and primates in general) have evolved to crave sweets. And now they're in everything. Hence, people are getting fatter.

                                    1. re: hal2010

                                      I think I understand what you're saying; perhaps the word "evolved" isn't what you mean?

                                      A person eating quite a lost of sugar does tend to become more accustomed to, addicted to, whatever, the taste of sweeter food and empty carbs. This is more of an addiction resulting from availability rather than a case of humans evolving.

                                      I'd like to add here that my personal experience is that when I eat more nutrient "empty" foods I eat more - the body seems to keep the crave going until it gets the nutrients that it wants. If you eat crappy food, you're going to eat more of it.

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        So if you eat the cake and coke first, you'll still be hungry from the fries and burger. On the other hand, if you eat the burger (at least the meat and lettuce) you don't have a craving for dessert?

                                        My body must be different. While I like a bit something sweet with coffee after a meal, I don't any sense of craving more and more sweets (or white bread). Sure, some breakfast items digest faster, leaving me hungry mid morning, while others suffice till noon. But that has nothing to do with 'cravings'.

                                        As for 'nutrients that it wants' - the immediate nutrients that my body wants/needs are calories, which are just as easily satisfied with sweets and starches and fats as with proteins. The lack of vitamins, minerals, and protein show up a deficiencies after a period time, not as a daily craving.

                                        Scurvy victims don't automatically crave limes. Pellagra victims don't automatically crave nixtamilized corn or niacin tablets. Kids suffering from rickets don't long to sunbathe and gnaw on bones.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          Yes, I mean to use the word "evolved". As a species we have evolved to crave fat and sugar. Until quite recently they were a rare luxury in our diet, so when they were available we'd gorge on them. But technology has outpaced evolution. Now fats and sugars are abundant and cheap. We still have an innate desire for them and the end result is that we eat more of them than we should and are, on average, heavier than before. Combine that with a sedentary lifestyle and it's a recipe for disaster.

                                        2. re: hal2010

                                          HFCS was developed in the late 1950s and becan to be used in the United States in 1970. It is no different from ordinary table sugar (sucrose) from a health standpoint, but it is cheaper. Sugar content of prepared foods began to be increased in the 1970s when fat reduction came into vogue. HFCS was a significant part of this phenomenon because of its lower cost.

                                          1. re: GH1618

                                            I keep seeing that claim: ' Sugar content of prepared foods began to be increased in the 1970s when fat reduction came into vogue.'

                                            I'm sure you can name products (Snackwell cakes?) that are low fat and 'high' sugar. But can you quantify that trend? There are still plenty of high fat prepared foods. And what I've seen of USDA consumption data (i.e. produce minus 'wastage'), there hasn't been a large scale shift from fats to sugars. Overall, while HFCS consumption rose, sugar consumption fell. In the USA sugar prices are artificially high due to import restrictions. The world market price of sugar is much lower (without USA 'subsidies').

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              I'm relying on Dr. Lustig for that connection, so I'll defer to him. It's in his 90-minute lecture on the subject.

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                Dr Lustig needs a collaborator who is familiar with the national data collected the USDA (and similar organizations world wide), someone with a published record in economics or agricultural economics and statistics (not journalism).

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Why would he need that? His field is treatment of childhood obesity and I am sure that he interacts with other professionals in that field. His lecture is on the subject of the biochemistry of sugar and its contribution to obesity. I think he's doing well enough as it is and I would not presume to tell him how to conduct his research.

                                                  And what does journalism have to do with it?

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    But he doesn't just talk about the biochemistry, or the struggles of particular children. He makes claims about national patterns of consumption.

                                                    As to my journalism quip - I was thinking of allied crusaders against sugar and all-things processed.

                                              2. re: paulj

                                                According to this report:


                                                Americans are eating more of just about every category of food, but especially sugar (in all its forms). No wonder we are fat!

                                                A good example of a food item which became popular in the 1970s and 1980s in a low-fat high-sugar form is flavored yogurt. It isn't unusual to see six brands in one store.

                                                It seems that you are correct that fat consumption has risen as well. We eat low-fat yogurt, use less butter, and drink less milk, but we love cheese and olive oil.

                                                But the report makes it clear that sugar consumption (in all its forms) is not only up but way up. Your distinction between HFCS and ordinary sugar is irrelevant. They are the same thing, nutritionally, and the total is way up.

                                                Also, wheat consumption is up significantly. Complex carbs convert to glucose, which is the fuel of the body, just more slowly than mainlining sugar directly.

                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  Another USDA summary

                                                  Comparing 1970 to 2010
                                                  "Of this 459-calorie increase, grains (mainly refined grains) accounted for 180 calories; added fats & oils, 225 calories; added sugar & sweeteners, 21 calories; dairy fats, 19 calories; fruits and vegetables, 12 calories; and meats, eggs, and nuts, 16 calories. Only dairy products declined (13 calories) during the time period."

                                            2. re: hal2010

                                              That's the gist of it, except that I would look at the evolutionary aspect from the point of view of the fruits. Fruit-bearing plants have evolved to have fruits which are good to eat because tasty fruits have survival value. Evolution is driven by survival of an organism and its progeny. Fruit doesn't add much to the survivability of humans if anything. For most of the development of modern man simple sugars were a small part of the diet. The absence of fresh fruit did not prevent early man from migrating into cold climates.

                                            3. re: GH1618

                                              I think there are also environmental factors at play that have led to the increase in obesity and autism, chemicals/toxins in our food, water supply etc.

                                              For example Bisphenol A (BPA) was only introduced into the food supply in past few decades. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor that affects how the body processes lipids and glucose to promote obesity. Infants and developing children are especially vulnerable to BPA.

                                              BPA is one chemical of thousands released into the environment that are toxic or of questionable safety.

                                            4. re: hal2010

                                              it's helping big ag.
                                              and, after all, corporations are "people" too.
                                              (saying this facetiously)

                                    2. re: Ttrockwood

                                      Water is free and yet people buy soda.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        You must live in nyc. your water is free, and good.
                                        not applicable everywhere else.

                                  2. A UK study found that "Children living close to fast food outlets more likely to be overweight"


                                    But "Fast food not the major cause of rising childhood obesity rates, study finds"

                                    This claims that fast food is part of a broader set of poor eating habits.

                                    Look at the 'related stores' on those pages as well.

                                    The full UK paper here:

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I am sure it is the buffets. Get rid of buffets and everyone will be thin...makes about as much sense as any of those studies :)

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        Thanks for everyones opinion even though we don't all agree :D

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          Keep the buffet, ditch the "value" mentality.

                                          Now that McDonald's posts the calorie counts on their menu, customers can see at a glance that getting the combo will double or even triple the calorie count of their order compared to just getting a sandwich. A person could eat three Big Macs a day and still be well below 2000 calories daily.

                                          But many of us in the US are trained young never to leave a bargain on the table, even if it means spending money on something we don't want or need. Fries and drink for just $2 more? I'd be a fool not to. Look how much they cost separately!

                                          At one point in my life Hometown Buffet was a weekly lunch hour stop for me and the customers were of two types: me, determined to get my money's worth pound for dollar however many plates it took, and senior citizens, who paid a little less and who approached the buffet as an opportunity to have at least one balanced meal in their day. Their dishes weren't piled and they weren't filled two or three times. It was just dinner, and tomorrow there would be another.

                                          The difference between the two models is that HB charges a flat rate and would rather you ate less, while McD's charges by the item and would rather you ate, or at least bought, more. It's in their interest to pressure you into combo'ing and upsizing, and that translates into more calories coming into your car window (more often than not).

                                          1. re: sedimental

                                            Their list of unhealthy food outlets includes: 'fish and chip shops, burger bars, pizza places, and sweet shops.'

                                            Where would a teenager spend his or hers lunch money? Or buy an after school snack?