At first blush, it seems like the greatest of great deals: Get paid thousands of dollars to gain weight by eating an extra meal every day composed entirely of fast food. The only catch is that to earn the full amount of money, participants have to try and lose the weight immediately after they finish packing on the pounds.
The study is being conducted by the University of Washington in St. Louis and designed to gain a deeper understanding of why some people develop diabetes and hypertension from weight gain while others do not. Similar work had been conducted on lab animals, but University of Washington researchers were ready to move to human models.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
As you can see, the participants had a very similar experience to Morgan Spurlock in the now infamous documentary Super Size Me. It's all well and good until you're into that second or third week of eating terrible fast food every single day. It sounds like gaining that much weight in such a brief period of time turned into a slog for many participants of this study.
One of the more horrifying aspects of the study is that researchers are using fast food to quantify their findings, in the same way that they use food pellets in their animal research. While that might seem baffling at first, consider just how similar the two items are. National chain fast food, like McDonald's, KFC, and Taco Bell quantify their food and its contents down to a minuscule scale. Part of that is to comply with health regulations, but a large part of that is so that they can retain control over their profit margins. After all, with the millions of burgers McDonald's serves, an unaccounted for ounce on every Quarter Pounders would start to add up very quickly. So, just like a food pellet fed to a lab rat, a Big Mac served at one McDonald's is going to be virtually identical to a Big Mac served anywhere else. That allows researchers to know with some certainty exactly how many calories and nutrients a participant is eating.