Fast Food, Science Experiments, and Blissful Ignorance

Here’s the skinny on this popular news item. A high school science teacher ate 270 consecutive meals from McDonald’s and ended up losing 37 pounds. His blood cholesterol level went down too. With help from several students, he documented the effects of a fast-food diet, and in some ways, they showed that happy meals really do exist—with certain disclaimers attached.
John Cisna gauged his calorie intake, kept careful records, and began a regular exercise program. Unlike Morgan Spurlock in his hit documentary about eating at McDonald’s for a month, Cisna probably didn’t order high-fat items often, he probably didn’t allow them to supersize high-calorie meals, and he probably didn’t puke out the window of his car after eating from the drive-thru.
Cisna’s experiment raises important issues: individuals make choices, react differently, and perceive what they want to perceive. Some will read the headline and figure they’ll drop weight by eating fast food every day. They’re the sort who will count the act of walking to the drinks fountain as exercise.
Others will realize that Cisna made some calculated changes such as paying attention to the content and amount of what he eats—no matter where he eats. The other big factor is exercise, and it will be interesting to read a follow-up someday. Will Cisna continue his exercise program and his food intake calculations? Will these factors continue to keep his blood readings healthy?

By coincidence, I attended the same central Iowa small-town school system where Cisna now teaches. That was so long ago, fast food had not yet taken over the universe. I’m not sure obesity was even in our vocabulary. Some were overweight (and as now, they were probably teased about it), but it was way down on our list of issues—somewhere below cars, sock hops, and study hall detentions.
Oh sure, I wish we would have had teachers doing practical experiments with nutrition and exercise, but they would have been labeled as “kooks.” Back then, our school nutrition came from the cold hot dogs and warm milk in the cafeteria, and our exercise came from running around on the playground and running away from older guys who wanted to remind us we were underclassmen. We were more concerned about burning off teenage angst than burning calories.
I hope consumers learn some valuable insights from Cisna and his students. And I must say I’m proud that some practical experiments are occurring at my old school. On the other hand, I’m glad we didn’t run science class autopsies on our version of Mac’s food—the sticky, cold mac and cheese that appeared on our cafeteria trays every Friday. Sometimes, nutritional ignorance truly is bliss. 
by dan gogerty  (pic from businessinsider.jpg)

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