In Supersize Me (2004), Morgan Spurlock directs and stars in a film whose origin lies in a lawsuit instigated by two teenaged girls, 19 and 14, both 170 lbs. , the first 5’ 6” and the second 4’ 10”, who blamed McDonalds for their obesity. Judge Robert Sweet said, “If plaintiffs can allege that McDonalds products’ intended use for its food to be eaten for every meal of every day” and if the company knew that doing so would be “unreasonably dangerous, they may be able to state a claim. ” Spurlock’s 30-day journey is to discover what a constant diet of McDonalds, only McDonalds, will do to his health.
He gets baseline health information from three doctors, a cardiologist (Steven Siegel, M. D. , F. A. C. C. ), a gastroenterologist (Lisa Ganjhu, D. O. ), and a general practitioner (Daryl M. Isaacs, M. D. ), to help him chart his body chemistry, including cholesterol, liver function, and blood sugar. He also consults a dietician/nutritionist as well as a physical fitness expert to help him chart his body fat, weight, and dietary intake. Over the 30-day period, Spurlock had to have everything on the McDonalds menu at least once and when he was offered the supersize option, he had to take it.
When Spurlock got his baseline information from his doctors, he also asked what they foresaw as the worse-case scenario for this experiment. Dr. Ganjhu thought there might be an increase in his triglycerides (amount of fat consumed), cholesterol level, and told him he would be putting his heart at risk considering the history of heart disease in his family. Dr. Siegel only foresaw an increase in his triglycerides.
He said, “The body is extremely adaptable. And the kidneys will handle any extra salt that you’re taking in. And your liver will be able to metabolize additional fats. Dr. Isaacs thought he would probably gain weight, increase his cholesterol levels, and feel miserable. Spurlock checks in with Dr. Isaacs before the end of the experiment. When he has chest pains on the 21st day, he visits Dr. Isaacs who asks him to consider taking an aspirin every day.
He tells him that his “numbers are outrageous,” that he is in danger of hypo-uremia, which also puts him in danger of kidney stones and gout. He tells Spurlock, “The results for your liver are obscene, beyond anything I would have thought. ” At the end of his experiment, Spurlock moves from 185. lbs. to 210 lbs. , a weight gain 24. 5 lbs. He explains that his liver turned to fat. Spurlock pioneers some of the visual strategies which we now find so common on TV Reality Shows like “The Biggest Loser” where one actually displays the amount of sugar or fat consumed. Spurlock displays thirty one-pound bags of sugar and a five-gallon jar of fat. His cholesterol “shot up 65 points. ”
His body goes from 11% to 18% body fat. He doubled his “risk of coronary heart disease, making it twice as likely [that he] would have heart failure. He says, “I felt depressed and exhausted most of the time and my mood swung on a dime. And my sex life was non-existent. I craved this food more and more when I ate it and got massive headaches when I didn’t. ” Dr. Ganjhu compares his 30-day experiment to a man who goes on an alcohol binge because both activities result in extensive liver damage. Towards the end of the film, six months after they filed their initial complaint, Judge Sweet dismisses the girls’ lawsuits, citing their failure to establish that McDonalds “food caused their injuries.
The film Supersize Me answers Judge Sweet’s challenge affirmatively, that a daily diet of McDonalds is directly responsible for physical injuries. Spurlock ends his film with a challenge: will it be us or them? Will we end up in the hospital or the cemetery? And he flashes shots of the ambulance bay at a hospital and a sprawling green cemetery. Or will they, the fast food chains, become obsolete? And Spurlock flashes a picture of a tombstone topped with “golden arches,” with Ronald McDonald’s name on it and the years “1954 – 2012. ”