Is Junk Food Fine in Moderation?

A little while ago, I made the mistake of debating a talk-radio host about the Ontario Medical Association’s proposals to help combat obesity up here in Canada.

The OMA suggests:

  • Increasing taxes on junk food and decreasing tax on healthy foods;
  • Restricting marketing of fatty and sugary foods to children;
  • Placement of graphic warning labels on pop and other high calorie foods with little to no nutritional value;
  • Retail displays of high-sugar, high-fat foods to have information prominently placed advising consumer of the health risks; and
  • Restricting the availability of sugary, low-nutritional value foods in sports and other recreational facilities that are frequented by young people.

Of course, the suggestion of a fat tax caused on-air conservatives to completely freak out.

During our debate over the tax implications of obesity (healthcare costs vs “fat taxes”), Mr. DJ let me know that:

  1. “in moderation” there are no bad foods…
  2. and that since we need food to eat, taxing any foods is ethically wrong.
Death by McMuffin???

Aside from the fact that we have already jumped the ethical hurdle by taxing snack & restaurant foods, I let him know about a new study which showed that within 2 hours of eating a breakfast consisting of two commercially available breakfast McSandwiches -(900 calories and 50 g of fat) – test subjects saw a reduction of arterial blood flow by 15-20%.

Let me repeat: It slowed down the flow of their blood.

And while this doesn’t mean that your blood is going to stop flowing after eating a bag of McMuffins…it does indicate that eating junk food has an immediate & negative effect on your health.

  • And that if you eat like this on a regular basis, you are harming yourself.

Even if a radio DJ disagrees.

Mr. DJ went on to argue that eating junk food provides calories and since we will die without calories, we would all die. Ergo junk food is good for us.

I hung up the phone.



  1. The study you cite was deeply flawed. There were so many differences between the control and variable diet that it’s impossible to state what led to the changes in blood flow. Higher carbs? Maybe. Changes in fat composition? Maybe. Added cheese? Maybe. Changes in protein types? Maybe. Reduction in vegetables. maybe. Real scientists don’t change 5 variables in one study, and then make conclusive claims. This study has major flaws. The authors should be embarrassed.

  2. I agree that their conclusions about saturated fat may indeed be flawed – bread, egg, cheese, butter margarine, cooking techniques (frying..I assume) are all going to play a role.

    However, if we step back, we see the consumption of 2 greasy breakfast sandwiches and we see a reaction in the test subjects. To that point, the researchers SHOULD have concluded that eating greasy breakfast sandwiches impaired blood flow. And then planned to conduct further studies.

    Just because the HSF are biased against sat fat doesn’t mean we should throw out the research…just their conclusion

  3. This research tells us nothing. Those breakfast sandwiches are made up of many foods. There are a dozen differences between the Mediterranean diet and the breakfast sandwich diet, this research is so flawed that we have no way of knowing which factor led to the change in blood flow. Other research (Lund University, Dr. Lustig) shows that carbohydrates (such as the bread in the sandwiches) raises triglycerides in the blood. Surprisingly, given what we’ve been told for decades, some research shows no connection between dietary fat and heart disease. In fact, we’re learning that fat from ham, sausage or bacon, especially if that ham, sausage or bacon was pasture raised, is not unhealthy, even good for us. It’s easy to draw simplistic conclusions, like “greasy breakfast sandwiches are bad for us”. But what we really need to know is “what is it in those sandwiches which led to the change in blood flow?”

  4. “what is it in those sandwiches which led to the change in blood flow?” – agreed

    That’s going to require additional study…but that still doesn’t discount this study. All studies have limitations. Some are too specific to integrate into real life…others (like this one) aren’t specific enough.

    If we’re going to cherry-pick studies, it’s pretty easy to find ones that demonize carbs while others demonize fats. The danger is when we go into the research with preconceived notions and start making conclusions based on those biases. I think that’s what has happened here. The researchers went looking for results that blamed saturated fat and this has colored their objectivity.

    I would also question that John may be doing the same thing. Except he wants to find the carbs at fault

  5. Let’s just AVOID junk food people, there are many other options for even a quick on the go bite. Grab the oatmeal instead of the egg mcmuffin!

  6. Mr. DJs equation about fast food and calories is hilarious, not in a good way, but nevertheless. I eat fast food sometimes, and I know that it’s bad for my health. At least I admit it.

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