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Movie Lesson Plan Based on "Super Size Me"

Answer Key to Homework Assignment

1.  List four different types of convenience foods. Suggested Response: Fast food, snack food, soft drinks, and prepared foods from the supermarket such as TV dinners.

2.  What is a common definition of obesity? Give your answer in terms of the percentage of a person's weight that is comprised of fat. Suggested Response: When fat constitutes 20% or more of a person's weight.

3.  List the three most important causes of preventable death for the entire population in the U.S. Then list the three most important causes of preventable death among U.S. teenagers. Suggested Response: For adults, it's smoking, obesity, and alcohol abuse, in that order. For teenagers, it's accidents, murder, and suicide.

4.  In terms of BMI what is a healthy weight, what is overweight, and what is obesity? Suggested Response: Healthy weight is 18.5 - 25; overweight is 25 to 30, and obese is 30 and above.

5.  State in words the formula for BMI and describe what it measures. Be sure to include a reference to pounds and inches in your statement. Then calculate your own BMI. Suggested Response: Weight in pounds times 703 divided by height in inches squared. BMI measures body weight in relation to height.

6.  For the most current year for which we have statistics on how many children were obese, state the year, the number of children in the U.S. who were obese and their percentage of the population of children. Suggested Response: For the year 2000, approximately 9 million children were obese. This amounted to 16.5% of the population of children. This answer will change as new statistics come out.

7.  Name ten serious diseases that obese people get more often than people who are not obese. Suggested Response: Here is a list of 21: Diabetes (Type 2); several cancers such as cancer of the uterus, breast, colon, esophagus; and bladder; cardiovascular disease; osteoarthritis; dyslipidemia; hypertension; stroke; sleep apnea and respiratory problems; urinary stress incontinence; impaired immune response; liver disease; gallbladder disease; renal disease; menstrual disturbance; and pancreatitis. There are plenty more.

8.  Why are people in the U.S. getting fatter? Mr. Spurlock told us. What did he say? Suggested Response: Any answer that shows that a student is thinking about the question is a good answer. However, the best answer is to quote Mr. Spurlock: (1) We are eating more food than ever before -- way more. (2) We are eating more food that's bad for us -- way more. (3) And we are getting less physical exercise -- way less.

9.  What percentage of meals do Americans eat in restaurants, including fast food outlets? Suggested Response: 40%

10.  10.  Explain the psychology behind supersizing. Why is it a good marketing technique? Suggested Response: There are a number of good answers to this question. They include words to the effect that: (1) People think they are getting a bargain because they get more food for just a little bit more money, and so they buy more units; (2) We are programmed to save up food energy and the more food we are offered, the more energy we can store.

11.  If a person is presented at a meal with more food than he or she could possibly eat, how much more food will the average person consume than he or she needs? Give your answer in terms of a percentage. Suggested Response: Up to 30%.

12.  What is the profit margin for French fries sold in fast food restaurants? Suggested Response: 20 to 1. For every dollar the restaurant spends, it takes in 20.

13.  Why do restaurateurs like to sell super sized meals? Suggested Response: The cost of food is a small part of a restaurant's costs of operating. The restaurant owner can get customers to buy more dishes, but it doesn't cost the restaurant owner very much to make the portions larger.

14.  What does "ersatz", mean? Suggested Response: Something that is fake or not the genuine article.

15.  Give two examples of specific convenience foods that are ersatz food that we learned about in this unit. Describe why they are called ersatz. Suggested Response: Here are four examples: (1) Anything with HFCS in it, like soft drinks, pastries and ice cream. Its ersatz because HFCS is corn that has gone through several chemical processes to become something like sugar, only its actually sweeter than sugar. (2) Foods with trans fats. In making trans fats the food industry changes an unsaturated fat into a saturated fat. They do this because it enhances the taste or extends the shelf life of the product. (3) The addition of artificial flavoring to make up for losses when food is frozen, dried or canned or modified to have a long shelf-life. (4) The addition of artificial coloring to make up for losses when food is frozen, dried or canned or made to have a long shelf-life.

16.  What are the four general types of foods that can hurt our health if we are not careful to consume moderate or small amounts? Suggested Response: Fat, salt, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.

17.  What is a flavorologist? Suggested Response: A highly trained chemist who is sensitive to flavors. It is flavorologists who create the flavors that convenience food companies put into their food to make up for the fact that flavor is taken out of food by freezing, drying, or canning.

18.  What is the difference between natural and artificial flavors put into foods? Suggested Response: Not much. The only difference is the source of the chemicals. So called "artificial" flavors are made in the laboratory. So called "natural" flavors are derived from plants or animals found in nature and reduced to pure chemicals in the laboratory.

19.  Food additives are tested for safety, so why are they still a risk to our health? Give two reasons. Suggested Response: There are three reasons: First, some people are allergic to food additives alone. Second, we have no idea how these chemicals react when two or more food additives are present in one food or in the body. This happens very frequently, but we don't know the health effects of food additives in combination. Third, we don't have good studies of the effects of food additives on our bodies over long periods of time.


20.  Fats and salt often make food taste better. Why do we like the tastes of fats and salt? Suggested Response: It was hard for our ancestors to get these foods. If we go far enough back, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who were at risk of starvation at any time. Fat is a very high source of calories and when we didn't know where the next meal was coming from it was good to store up calories for the hard times ahead. As to salt, it was scarce, so if you found some, it was a good idea to eat it while it was there.

21.  What are trans fats and why are they bad for us? Suggested Response: They are man-made fats in which vegetable oils are turned into saturated fats by a chemical process. They are bad for us because they have LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

22.  What is the mechanism by which LDL cholesterol causes heart disease? Suggested Response: The cholesterol builds up a waxy substance in our veins, restricting the flow of blood to the heart. When the heart doesn't get enough oxygen it gets damaged and we get heart attacks.

23.  Which types of fats do not contribute to heart disease? Suggested Response: Unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).

24.  What types of foods contain fats that have high amounts of LDL cholesterol? Suggested Response: Meat and dairy products and fats made into trans fats.

25.  What types of foods contain fats that do not contribute to cholesterol found? Suggested Response: Plants and some seafoods.

26.  Why does advertising affect young children more than it does teenagers and adults? Suggested Response: Children, especially young children, don't know the difference between programming and advertisements. They cannot critically look at ads. Second, children don't understand that people on television are trying to sell them something.

27.  The Food and Drug Administration says that our diets should contain between 5 and 20% fat. What do some nutritionists say about the 20% number? Suggested Response: That it's too high and that the government was influenced by the food industry to keep the number high.

28.  What is the "nag factor"? Suggested Response: When kids nag their parents to buy them something.

29.  What doesn't sugar have that is healthy for us? Suggested Response: Vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. (A good response will list at least three of these.)

30.  How did the growth of the sugar industry in the 17th and 18th centuries contribute to the Industrial Revolution? How did the growth of the sugar industry contribute to the slave trade? Suggested Response: The sugar industry needed gears for the grinding machines used in sugar production. Shops and plants were built in Europe to make the gears. The sugar plantations needed workers for the fields. Whites didn't want to do the work. Native Americans did not live long in captivity. Africans were hard workers and could withstand the rigors of slavery.

31.  Remember Jared Fogel, the young man who lost so much weight eating at Subway? What were the two most important reasons for the success of his weight loss program? Did they have anything to do with the fact that he ate at Subway? Suggested Response: He stopped over-eating and went on an exercise plan. The only thing that his weight loss program had to do with Subway was that if he was careful he could get a reasonably healthy meal there.

32.  In the study that followed 50,000 nurses, how many cans of soft drinks a day did it take to lead to weight gain and an 80% increase in Type 2 Diabetes? Suggested Response: One can a day!

33.  In 2005, how many pounds of sweetener did the average American consume? How much of this amount was sugar and how much was HFCS? Suggested Response: In the United States, as of 2005, the average person consumed about 100 pounds of sweetener each year. Of these, 42.2 lbs were HFCS and 45.2 lbs were sugar. If students say 100 lbs, divided fairly evenly between sugar and HFCS, they should get credit.

34.  When the World Health Organization stated that it was going to release a recommendation that sweeteners account for only 10% of daily calories, what did the food industry do? Suggested Response: It threatened to lobby Congress to cut off funding for the WHO.

35.  The caloric content of the largest serving of McDonald's French fries that you can buy has changed from 1960 to the present. Describe that change. Suggested Response: The caloric content of a serving of McDonald's French fries has gone up from 200 calories in 1960 to 320 calories in the late 1970s to 450 calories in the early 1990s to 540 calories in the late 1990s and is now at 610 calories. That's more than a threefold increase.

36.  What is the recommended caloric intake per day for teenagers? Suggested Response: 2200 for teenage girls and 2800 for teenage boys

37.  People with Type 2 diabetes are at risk for several other illnesses. Name three of them. Suggested Response: Four are mentioned in the materials. They are: heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, amputation of lower extremities.

38.  Can you rely on the nutrition statistics on the websites of the convenience food companies? Suggested Response: No. When Morgan Spurlock checked the accuracy of the data on the McDonald's website, he found that it consistently understated the risks to health caused by McDonald's foods.

39.  Did Mr. Spurlock's 30 day fast food diet have any effects on his mind? What were they? Suggested Response: Yes. He was depressed and irritable much of the time. He had severe headaches and mood swings.

40.  Name four things that society as a whole could do to reduce the obesity epidemic. (Don't list things that an individual can do, but only list what society as a whole can do.) Suggested Response: Here are eight. Any idea showing some thought should get credit. (1) Ban sodas and junk foods from schools; (2) tax high calorie junk food and sodas; (3) require nutritional labeling on restaurant menus; (4) limit the caloric content of any serving of food; allow people to purchase another whole serving if they wanted to; this would stop the super sizing phenomenon; (5) ban or restrict advertising convenience food to kids; (6) prohibit restaurants from giving toys or rewards for children for coming to the restaurant and buying a meal; (7) spend more money on biking and walking paths to encourage a healthy life style; and (8) require physical education classes with strenuous exercise in all schools.

Last updated June 15, 2008.

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