Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Wausau, WI
I think it was a great lesson for the kids, I just don't think it teaches veteran dieters anything new.
Especially since most people are going to walk away with the idea " I can eat at McDonald's if I want to" and gloss over or forget the three most important aspects of the teacher's experiment:
1. Calorie intake
3. Meeting nutritional guidelines (if not from the FDA, then from another reputable source, such as the American Diabetic Association or the American Dietetics Association, or a trusted dietitian).
I'm guessing that the teacher stressed these elements to the students, and I'm very glad to see the topic of nutrition, fitness, and weight control being taught in high school (I'd like to see it in middle schools and grade schools too).
In my opinion, the article is written on a way that just doesn't stress enough those 3 important elements I listed above. Elements any veteran dieter should know, but very often doesn't.
Another fact that (which I hope the teacher stressed to his students) that an experiment with one subject is not a large enough sample to prove anything. Just because one middle-aged man lost weight and improved some of his health markers, doesn't mean anything. Coincidence alone could be responsible for the effects, as could the diet alone, or the exercise alone.
We also don't know what other variables may be at play. What was the man's dietary habits before the experiment (was he eating 5,000 calories a day at McDonald's?) Did his doctor recently put him on cholesterol meds? What were the foods, if any, on the McDonald's menu that couldn't be included in his diet? Did he experience any adverse health effects (headaches, fatigue, abdominal pain, digestive issues, nausea, hunger, cravings, brain fog or lack of mental clarity, dizziness....) and how often? Did he seek and get clearance from his doctor before starting the experiment? Did he have a family history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes...?
Anyone with a basic understanding of nutrition (say, one high school class or a college/university 100-level class, or its equivalent self-study devoted to nutrition and fitness), will find no new information here. Unfortunately, anyone without this knowledge can easily misinterpret the situation to their detriment, by assuming one guy's experience proves anything or that it will apply equally to themselves).
To me, a troubling aspect of mainstream science (and lay culture as well) is an almost universal assumption that we all have identical dietary needs.
Most of us say, "everyone is different," but our words and actions generally prove we don't really mean it, or we take it too literally. Just the divisiveness in our community here illustrates this. We don't try very hard to determine which types of diet best address an individual's unique health needs and goals. Instead, we assume everyone should be on the same diet, or conversely (and just as naively) that "everyone is different" means that finding the "right" diet is entirely random.
Science needs to start exploring what types of diets are best for which people, instead of trying to find a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead of asking "which diet is best?" We need to start asking, "for whom?" and "for what purpose?"
The "best diets" for heart disease or cancer prevention may be very different than the best diet for weight loss. The best diets for a sedentary, overweight, menopausal woman may (and probably are) quite different than for a lean, athletic, male adolescent.
While we "know this" on some level, the science doesn't always reflect this knowledge. The research being done currently, still too often reflects a one-size approach.
Compared to other sciences, nutrition and weight management science (and wellness in general) are in there infancy. Medical science in general, in the western world, focuses on fixing what is broken, rather than preventing breakdown in the first place.
I think the science is starting (finally) to ask the more complex questions, but it will be a while before we have the answers.
I'm starting to rant and ramble, so I'll end here.