McDonald's executives aren't just loving it - they're eating it up.
Roughly one decade after the film Super Size Me skewered McDonald's for selling food that the hit documentary film claimed was not healthy and lacking in key nutritional elements when consumed regularly, there's a new, unexpected twist to the experiment that had director Morgan Spurlock gaining weight and getting sick after chowing-down on McDonald's food only for 90 days.
The new twist: A high-school science teacher in the Colo-Nesco School District in Colo, Iowa, says he lost 37 pounds in 90 days also by eating only McDonald's food - but he followed strict nutritional limits laid out by his students. That included limits of 2,000 calories a day and attempts to stick with daily recommended allowances for protein, carbohydrates, cholesterol and several other nutritional restrictions.
"I'm the perfect example of a slob," says the teacher, John Cisna, in a phone interview on Monday. He insists that he ate a variety of stuff on the McDonald's menu - including Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and even desserts including sundaes and ice cream cones. During the three months, he says, his cholesterol dropped from 249 to 170.
He had two Egg White Delight McMuffins, a bowl of McDonald's Fruit & Maple Oatmeal and 1% milk for breakfast and, typically, a salad for lunch. Then, at dinner, he'd often have a more traditional Value Meal. He also adopted a new exercise regimen of walking 45 minutes daily. Since the study, done between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15 2013, he's lost another six pounds and he says that he plans to do a second study in 2014 that includes a more aggressive exercise program.
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"McDonald's had absolutely nothing do do with this," he says, although he did coax a local McDonald's franchisee into giving him the three-month meal supply for free. "If you had a McDonald's senior executive serve me a Quarter Pounder in person, I wouldn't know him."
For McDonald's, which has been repeatedly baffooned - if not lambasted - in the news media for selling junk food, the experiment is both an eyebrow raiser and an I-told-you so moment that is surely gloat-worthy.
"We congratulate John Cisna on his weight loss and improved overall health, and we are pleased he was able to accomplish his goals by making balanced choices, which included many of his favorite McDonald's menu items," says Cindy Goody, senior director of nutrition at McDonald's USA, in a statement. "Like Mr. Cisna, many of our customers are looking for ways to find balance in their diets and make informed choices."
Spurlock, who had a very different experience eating only at McDonald's 10 years ago, was filming the CNN show Inside Man on Monday and unavailable for comment.
Jo Ann Hattner, a nutritional consultant at Stanford University School of Medicine, says the school still shows Spurlock's film to new medical students. But since that documentary was made, she notes, McDonald's has much improved its menu, with items like Egg White Delights and a variety of salads. "You have to give them some credit," she says.
But, she notes, "I don't advise a McDonald's diet," she says. "You need more fresh vegetables and fresh fruits."
Cisna says his greatest concern about eating so often at McDonald's was all the salt that McDonald's put in and on its food. "If someone had high blood pressure, they might have a difficult time eating at McDonald's," he says.
For his part, Cisna insists, he never got tired of the McDonald's food because his students constantly "mixed up the menu" for him.
His students learned an important lesson, he says, about making good eating choices wherever and whenever they eat. "This is something you can't get out of a text book."