I am not a nutritionist and despite being an environmentalist I am not even a vegetarian (though I do try and keep my meat consumption low to minimize my footprint.) Despite those two admissions though I do know something about cooking and eating healthily, so when I read today that there is a distance runner in the US training for a marathon by only eating McDonalds it caught my attention. There are certainly some of you out there who have seen the movie “Supersize Me”, a documentary directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock. Morgan undergoes a month of only eating McDonalds to see what effects it has on his physiology and psychology. I had some stylistic issues with the documentary at the time – most documentaries are supposed to maintain a somewhat impartial standpoint and document a story, and he was clearly interested in making a statement, but the fact is I agree with the general message of the movie. Fast food is mostly not very healthy for us and it puts our bodies (specifically our livers, kidneys and circulatory system) under duress to deal with the added stuff in the food which shouldn’t be there. The marathon runner is maybe better suited to undertake such a venture, his body is probably used to dealing with more duress than a typical person’s despite that this diet is not healthy or advisable.
One of the most influential environmental books of all time is “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. In it she described how the higher up the food chain you go, the higher the concentration of pollution inside the animal is. If you have a tiny concentration of some pollutant in a small fish, and then a frog eats 5 of those small fish, then the frog will have about 5 times the concentration. Frogs gets eaten by birds or small mammals, those get eaten by wolves and the concentration increases up the chain (its of course more accurate to describe the food web but in those days it wasn’t.)
There is one superhero though which is often shown eating to great excess, and that’s the Flash (Wally West version.) This goes back to the mid-80s when the character was redesigned to have lost his ability to run at speeds near the speed of sound and he was reduced to running near the speed of sound. I think this was later explained as because he was unable to connect with the Speed Force (when it was happening the Speed Force had not yet been defined in comics.) Instead he had an extremely fast metabolism which required a lot of food. This food was usually drawn almost cartoonishly to be the equivalent of chowing down on plates upon plates of hamburgers and pizza. If he was able to eat so much though he would be consuming a large number of toxins and other dead calories from his poor diet. His superfast metabolism wouldn’t mean that his liver of kidney would be able to remove stuff that it can’t remove anyway. Actually he would have a huge collection of harmful substances in his body.
In the end I know it is just a fictional comic book character and that I trying to apply too much real world science to the story (as usual). Still the comics often depict some characters as having exceptionally good diets (Batman for instance.) Maybe it is time for one of the most profilic eaters to follow one as well?