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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE April 29, 2004

“Super Size Me” Nutrition Expert Available for Interviews on Addictive Quality of Fast Food

WASHINGTON—Nutrition researcher Neal D. Barnard, M.D., an expert on the addictive nature of fast food, is available for comment on the highly acclaimed new documentary Super Size Me. The movie, about a filmmaker who eats nothing but McDonald’s meals for 30 days and rapidly becomes overweight and dangerously sick, is opening nationwide on May 7. (It is also scheduled for a special screening at Filmfest D.C. on Sunday, May 2.) In the film, Dr. Barnard explains the emerging science showing that certain unhealthy foods are actually physically addictive. Super Size Me won filmmaker Morgan Spurlock a best director award at the Sundance Film Festival this spring.

In his latest book, Breaking the Food Seduction, Dr. Barnard describes how meat, chocolate, sugar, and cheese all spark the release of opiate-like substances that trigger the brain’s pleasure center. A study published this month by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that the same part of the brain involved in drug addiction is also linked to the desire for food. This growing body of literature helps explain why so many people find it hard to resist unhealthy foods.

The biology behind food addictions could ultimately provide ammunition for health advocates seeking to hold the food industry at least partly responsible for our nation’s obesity epidemic. Until now, the food industry’s main defense against the so-called obesity lawsuits has been that food supposedly isn’t addictive and that there’s no such thing as a “bad food.”

But in his book and numerous op-eds, Dr. Barnard has illustrated that “Big Food” could be more culpable for the nation’s obesity epidemic than the public currently knows. For example, a PCRM investigation in 2003 revealed that big chain restaurants have taken advantage of the addiction phenomenon by teaming up with the USDA to push greater consumption of cheese and other unhealthy foods.

In recent months, McDonald’s and other chains have launched a variety of supposedly healthy new menu items and initiatives aimed at improving their image (and possibly lessening their legal liability). But Dr. Barnard calls the marketing blitz mere window dressing and points out that the McDonald’s menu is still based on ground beef, chicken, cholesterol-laden cheese, and other unhealthful—and ultimately seductive—foods.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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