8 Replies to “Eight Ways of Looking at Self-Experimentation”

  1. I’m surprised that Scientific American is not reporting on the fact that no one has been able to replicate Spurlock’s results, and the fact that he refuses to release his food logs or comment on the controversy.

  2. I agree with Tom. There was a comedian, Tom Naughton, who undertook a similar ‘Spurlockian’ experiment in ‘Fat Head’, and his health markers, I believe, improved. He repeatedly called Spurlock’s representatives for his food diary and was studiously ignored. While very trendy and seductive to the anti-McDonaldists, Spurlock is a really bad example and I don’t think it behooves someone like Seth to be compared to him.

    Forgive my language, but Spurlock is an attention-whore and tireless self-promoter, not a real or even amateur scientist.

    See this video for Tom Naughton’s analysis of Spurlock’s numbers that don’t add up.

    More here:

  3. @Seth

    BTW if you or your publisher would implement comment subscriptions for each of your posts — that would be a great way to further encourage the, generally, very stimulating commentary on this great blog. Having to check back every day is a bit tiresome.

  4. It’s a bit weird the post on Spurlock makes much of his weight gain. In the film (which is very entertaining), two facts are clearly stated:

    1) To maintain his weight, he should have consumed about 2500 calories a day.

    2) He consumed about 5000 calories a day.

    Big surprise: He gained weight. I would think the same would have happened if he would have consumed 5000 calories/day in apples.

  5. I think the main point of the film was not the weight gain — which as you say seemed very likely — but the other bad health effects. What Spurlock did was a little like feeding rats large amounts of saccharine — larger than anyone would ever ingest — as a way of finding out quickly what the effects of smaller and more realistic amounts would be. He ate a large amount of fast food to find out what the effects of small amounts of fast food are.

  6. “He ate a large amount of fast food to find out what the effects of small amounts of fast food are.”

    I’m not sure. In an inteview one finds on the German DVD edition of the film, he is asked whether his experiment has any value given that nobody eats like that. He makes a big point of arguing that, no, he doesn’t know anyone who eats at McDonald’s every day, but he does know people who eat at McDonald’s in the morning, KFC at noon and Pizza Hut in the evening.

  7. “the fact that no one has been able to replicate Spurlock’s results”

    That’s probably because Fredrik Nystrom has replicated Spurlock’s results. His test group, consisting of 12 male and 6 female students, showed a large individual variation, including one male test person that suffered as badly as Spurlock, and had to be removed from the experiment:


    “Blood tests of the fast food eaters showed sharp increases in the liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase (ALT). ALT levels more than quadrupled during the 4-week study period and 13 of the 18 subjects developed morbidly high status of ALT in their blood serum. One male had such extreme values after three weeks that he was withdrawn from the experiment and put on a normal diet.”

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