La Plata Medical Society
  I saw a movie today that I would highly recommend: "Super Size Me." I had no idea what it was about as my wife, Carole, led me into the theater.

"Super Size Me" is directed by Morgan Spurlock, who also is the main character. It's about whether the fast-food industry has any responsibility in the obesity epidemic that America is experiencing.

Spurlock is a healthy 32-year-old man who decided to eat only McDonald's meals for one month (30 days). He was interviewed and tested by three physicians before his "change of diet" and was found to be a healthy male with good cholesterol and liver function tests. They re-examined him several times during the month.

During Spurlock's month of eating at McDonald's, we witnessed his increasing obesity; he gained 25 pounds and his serum cholesterol spiked 62 points. Serum tests showed that he was ruining his liver. He had a greatly diminished sex life (according to his girlfriend), suffered weakness and noticed a deterioration in his quality of life. The physicians advised him to stop his experiment because he was "killing himself." He didn't.

The movie makes a lot of sense to this physician as to what happens when we ignore our diet and stop exercising. For his efforts, Spurlock won the award for best documentary director at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

However, on the Internet there is a lot of criticism of his movie. They criticize him for "pseudo-science" and for "doing anything for money."

"He absolves us of responsibility for our own fitness," writes James Glassman in The Washington Post, March 25.

Some of these statements may have some truth, but they miss the main thrust of the movie: The fast food industry has a responsibility for creating the food that Americans eat.

We know that obesity has been rising in the country and that it is reported to soon surpass tobacco as the No. 1 killer in the United States. What is its cause? Is there anything we can do?

Spurlock's "Super Size Me" movie definitely points the finger at the fast-food industry for addicting Americans to fats and encouraging younger children to think of McDonald's and gratification.

Yes, Americans have a personal responsibility for what they eat and how much they exercise. But fats taste so good and they are so easy to obtain at the numerous fast-food restaurants. If we legalized heroin stores to give heroin IVs, would we blame the customers or the stores?

Yes, diet and exercise is an individual decision, but most of us are not strong in our decisions.

Staying healthy and trim is not easy but it isn't that hard. It is important in the prevention of many illnesses.

Dr. John N. Withers is a practicing general surgeon in Durango.

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