McDonald's UK CEO: kids are fat because of video games

Steve Easterbrook, the CEO of McDonald's UK, says that video games cause obesity -- not his nutritionally void, heavily sweetened, processed junk that's voraciously marketed to kids:
But he made special mention of the popularity of games – and said they have reduced the amount of time young people spend outdoors "burning off energy"...

"Then there's a lifestyle element: there's fewer green spaces and kids are sat home playing computer games on the TV when in the past they'd have been burning off energy outside."

Link (via Raph Koster)


  1. McDonalds has been around for over 60 years. Their products have become if anything healthier and smaller portioned (thanks to people actively fighting value meals and super size deals) in recent years, but people still look for an easy answer as to why people are getting fatert. Maybe try a combination of kids running around less (and yes, playing more video games), parents feeding their kids fatty foods more often (just attack mcdonalds because its the biggest one? pizza hot dogs cafateria food at school is all terrible too), and a general fear of letting kids go outside. I’ve lost 60 lbs over the past 4 months and ive had mcdonalds at least 10 times, don’t eat bad food every day and don’t blame a company for offering a product and trying to advertise it. Why is no one attacking hardees or pizza hut or dairy queen?

    Because the cool thing to do now is be hating on mcdonalds, and thats just wrong.

  2. Oh, I think Easterbrook is on to something. If kids today spent 14 hours a day pushing a plow or working at the cotton mill then walking 5 miles back to their village like they used to, they could totally burn off the calories.

  3. One thing that isn’t mentioned in this article but usually is when the press talks about obesity is a statistic saying something like “In the past 12 years, the percentage of overweight and obese people has gone up by x%.” The number of years changes, but it always refers to a time before 1997. The reason for this is that in 1997, the definitions of overweight and obese changed. The number of people who are overweight and obese probably has gone up since then, but we don’t know the real amount because we’re comparing apples to oranges.

  4. I play a lot more video games than I eat McDonalds hamburgers. I can’t really blame my own fat ass on the fast food industry, personally.

    Now, Poppycock on the other hand, that shit should be illegal. It’s worse than crack, and you can buy it in giant cardboard tubes!

  5. He’s probably right, at least partly. Even if the kids ate McDonald’s a lot, if they spent more time outside exercising and less in front of video games, they’d be a lot less heavy.

  6. Sandy Szwarc is an expert on food science and scientific study design, amongst many other accomplishments. She writes the blog which seeks to dispel many of the lies spread through bad science and even worse journalism about obesity.

    Some choice quotes:

    …And the promotion of weight-height measures for individual children as a way to identify those in need of interventions is similarly without support. According to scientists at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, BMI is a screening tool [for public surveillance], not a diagnostic tool, and BMIs over cut-offs don’t equate to clinical complications or health risks. After a comprehensive review of 40 years of evidence — about 6,900 studies and abstracts — on screening and interventions for childhood and adolescent “overweight,” the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently found no quality evidence to support that childhood “overweight” is related to health outcomes.

    …In other words, today’s report could more accurately been titled: “Obesity Among Adults in the United States — No Change Since 1999-2000.” There has been no statistically significant change in obesity rates for the past 7 years. That’s “obesity.” Not just those a few pounds “overweight.

    And there’s more. Go to junkfoodscience.come and read everything there.

    Cory, as much as I respect you, you fall into the category of journalists who spread disinformation about obesity on a semi-regular basis.

  7. @saosinned: I should imagine it’s because Hardees, Pizza Hut and Dairy Queen aren’t coming out and trying to blame some easy scapegoat for something that is predominantly their own doing?

    As much as I agree that McDonald’s come in for a disproportionately high level of flack in comparison to their competitors, if they’re going to pull stuff like this which the rest of the fast food industry does not (or has not) then it is them that deserve to be berated for it.

    Either way, Easterbrook is wrong to single out games in the way he has- you burn just as few calories watching TV or reading books as you do games, if not less, and I don’t hear him complaining about those. He also makes the mistake of forgetting that there’s more to exercise than sports- my time may well be spent subsisting on fast food, playing video games and avoiding sports (I blame school for that one, but that’s another discussion) like the plague, yet I walk to work every day and I’m somehow managing not to be massive.

    The irony is, of course, if McDonald’s wasn’t the company that gets all the negative attention, he probably wouldn’t have made the comments he did. Oh well.

  8. It’s not only fast food and a lack of exercise that makes us fat. It’s all in the supermarkets – you eat what you buy.
    When in a foreign country, I always really like to go to supermarkets for some comparative cultural studies (and because I want to buy stuff) and I’ve never seen so enormously big potato chips/crisps bags, giant peanut butter glasses, chocolates etc. as in the USA. All the food seems to be sold in giant portions. In the next two rows you’ll find pills helping against constipation and , even better, weight loss pills.
    Visiting Japanese supermarkets you’ll find a lot of fresh vegetables, fresh fish, fresh meat and a lot less junk snack stuff.
    We don’t really need McDonalds to get fat. It just helps. People should really just start to think – when you eat a lot of fat, sugar and carbs, you get fat.

    (totally agree with the point that school makes you avoid sports btw.)

  9. I agree with Teapunk. It´s always healthier to cook your own fresh food, but it seems easier to eat all the “five minutes in the microwave” junk that we find at the supermarket.

  10. Processed foods, in lieu of market fresh whole foods, and less exercise are the main contributors to overweight america. We have forgotten how to cook, two income families, 2.5 kids in afterschool sports programs, no time to sit and share a meal at home. It’s a life style issue.

  11. Have you seen the sugar and calorie count of fruit? Unbelievable.

    And tofu? 5 grams of fat per serving! It’s ridiculous!

  12. My son loves McDonalds. He could eat their 7-days-a-week. However, since I’m his parent, we don’t go their that often.

    Remember kids don’t drive to McDonalds; their parents do.

  13. It’s true, video game systems and McDonald’s don’t just show up at your door. Quit blaming McDonald’s for making products people enjoy– the blame lays squarely on the customer.

    As numerous meat-eating BB comment-writers noted, there’s really no reason to eat meat outside of “it tastes good” anyway.

  14. If only a normal, healthy guy would just eat at McDonalds for 30 days to see whether or not one can be healthy eating…

    Oh yeh. Sorry! I forgot about that!

    Well, maybe if some writer would research not only the source of McDonalds food, but what chemicals, additives, fats, and so forth are put into the food at all levels as well as how McDonalds (and other fast food “restaurants” in the nation) manipulate research and statistics by funding said….

    Oh. Right.


  15. @ moon:
    “Have you seen the sugar and calorie count of fruit? Unbelievable.

    And tofu? 5 grams of fat per serving! It’s ridiculous!”

    Well, of course – everything we eat has calories. I still hang on to the old-school diet of “everything in moderation”, and you need everything – fat, sugar, carbs etc. – in moderation.
    The body however does not need preservatives, additives, artificial food coloring and so on.
    In moderation it’s even okay to eat a burger, but not as a staple in your diet.

  16. The academic and government studies are not only overwhelming but unanimous: childhood caloric intake in the developed world HAS NOT CHANGED in fifty years. Only caloric output has (i.e., lack of exercise).

    Sorry to ruin your day with facts.

  17. A Big Mac, 540 calories & 29g fat; large fries, 570 calories & 30g fat; large coke, 310 calories = 1410 calories & 59g of fat.


  18. It’s just too easy to distill everything down to a sound bite. And really, I think that’s the problem all around (as others already indicated) — we want the easy answer.

    Food at McDonalds is bad for you. But it’s not the source of our problems. Even Supersize Me, with all its theatrics, concludes it ain’t all bad if consumed moderately.

    McD’s wants to blame video games, video games want to blame Doritos, Doritos want to blame TV, TV wants to blame, um, McD’s? At the end of the day, maybe we should all *get outside for a few minutes* and stop being, er, pound foolish. (Sorry, had to.)

  19. Well, he’s got a point, but he’s only half right and I’m sure he knows it. The phrase “pot calling the kettle black” comes to mind– they’re BOTH partially responsible. But it is a free society (mostly, anyway), so part of the blame is on people with no self control.

    Or maybe not. It occurred to me recently that maybe there are genetic/evolutionary forces at work here. How do we know that the increase in obesity in the industrialized west isn’t due to some gene that would’ve been weeded out in a past, harsher society? Even in the darkest days of the Soviet Union there were the typical chubby grandmothers (“babushkas”) standing in lines to get their loaves of bread or heads of cabbage, with no McD’s around, and (I’m sure) plenty of physical labor to be done for the state. My own grandmother was quite chubby, and yet didn’t eat at Mcd’s AND was quite active gardening and raising/killing chickens.

  20. More recent studies implicate solubilized carbohydrates in childhood obesity.

    The general argument is this:

    When you consume a given number of calories from, say, an orange, you get a certain level of satiation.

    When you consume the same amount of calories from orange juice, orange soda pop or orange gatorade, you get less satiation. Less satiation = more room for other food = more overall calories consumed.

    Limiting the availability of juices and soft drinks, gave the most dramatic results in reducing childhood weight.

    I can’t remember (and I don’t have a Lancet subscription here at the house), but I believe this was the article:

    Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis.

    The Lancet, Volume 357, Issue 9255, Pages 505-508

    D. Ludwig, K. Peterson, S. Gortmaker

  21. @27 As an evolutionary biologist, I have to express doubt. Unless there’s some constant selection to make us heavier, a trait doesn’t just start sweeping through the population just because you stop selecting against it. Plus, selection proceeds on a generational basis — even though your grandmother was born quite a while ago, that’s still just 2 generations, with little opportunity for a measurable difference except under the most extreme magnitudes of selection.

    There are reasonable (though often completely speculative) arguments about how evolutionary forces impact our switch to agriculture and industry. Historical selection to eat whenever possible is one example. Just keep in mind that, for the time scales we’re dealing with, the pace of change in our circumstances likely far outstrips the pace of change in our genes. A good example is the oft-cited “evolution” towards greater height among Europeans since the Middle Ages (just look at those tiny doors!). We are indeed a lot taller now, but it’s because our health and nutrition are so radically improved (despite McD’s :). One might suggest that hasn’t just impacted our growth upwards!

  22. @29:

    As an evolutionary biologist, you have to recognize that natural selection is the most well misunderstood scientific concept out there…

    Good luck!

  23. I don’t think any one thing can be held up and proclaimed “this is the problem”. People eating more, people not exercising as much = fatties. McD is not going to win many arguments on the nutrition value of its food though. And, as a firefighter I have to add that I have worked a small firey plane crash that was inaccessible for a few days- the smell was the same as any McD. I can’t go in one without throwing up a little in my mouth.

  24. Yeah, heard the same from a surgeon after a long term smoker autopsy – couldn’t eat the ribs at the restaurant that night. True story.

    In any case, The Empire of The Evil Clown has gone unchecked long enough. They targeted children from Day One. “Happy” Meals with toys… swine.

  25. Well that’s bunk. Why, just the other day I was so inspired from playing Doom that I went out and got a nice workout…by chasing people with a shotgun.


  26. gr wth (mst f) th thr pstrs hr. f “prcssd jnk” s yr nmy, y cn d lt wrs thn McDnlds.

    stll hr thr n ccsn myslf. t’s fd, nd hppn t lk t. Nw Cry, y hv gt t stp bng s snty vr sch thngs. *wgs fngr* ltmtly t’s p t th cnsmr (ltrlly!) t dcd hw mch s t mch. f y t 5000 clrs f c crm pr dy nd gt ft, t’s hrdly th flt f th c crm ndstry, s t? Sm wth Mc D’s. t thr myb nc wk, nc vry thr wk bt ‘m ft bcs dn’t st rnd n my btt rdng blgs ll dy! Clrs n = clrs t, thrw n mlt-vtmn f y hv ny wrrs nd Bb’s yr ncl.

  27. So has this CEO actually been in a McDonald’s restaurant in the last year, or maybe even two?

    It seems that about a third or more of them have video games built right into their dining rooms.

    Now isn’t that just a little bit hypocritical?

  28. Hi All,

    And, I thought that it was the fat in those Big Macs! Or, was it the French Fries?

    Boy, I’m glad that I saw this!

    Next thing that we will hear is that the weather in the UK is why kids are getting fat.

    Gee, talk about getting your “Nuclear Deflector Shield Up”.

    Phoenix, Arizona

  29. I’m not a scientist or dietician. All I can offer is anecdotal evidence. But I remember that when we were growing up (I’m 38), McDonalds was an occasional treat.

    I do know that there were not nearly as many overweight kids in my school as you see now. And what we considered “fat” in those days is more “average” nowadays.

    Of course, we spent a lot of time outside playing, and home video game systems were primitive and only available to people with a lot of disposable income.

    I forget where I heard the observation that the US is the only country with fat poor people.

  30. When i grew up, there was this skinny guy in the neighbourhood, a professional drunk. The supermarket where he bought his booze was my parents, so i know from which stuff he “lived”. I was wondering my whole life, how a body can survive just of alcohol and soma pizza.

    Well, it is now about 20 years later since i started to wonder how that living molotov-cocktail kept on going (his home was about 400 meters away from our supermarket, that was his only exercise i believe). He died last month.

    These days i wonder how kids from today survive their childhood. Is it possible to do it without getting out, building a fortress in the woods, collecting rotten animals because they smell so sweet, jamming rusty nails into your skin, doing weird evel-knievil inspired 15cm “high” bike stunts to impress your friends, stay out all day in wet cloth in the midle of october?

    It dices me up just like Mr. Molotov-cocktail used to do.

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