One of the authors behind the hit book Freakonomics has sparked a heated debate by suggesting the McDonald's McDouble cheeseburger is the "cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history".
The McDouble retails for about $2 in New Zealand, depending on store promotions.
Reader Ralph Thomas emailed the Freakonomics authors, who are famous for applying economics to popular culture, with this controversial statement:
"It has been my gut-level (sorry, pun) feeling for a while now that the McDonald’s McDouble, at 390 Calories, 23g of protein, 7 percent of daily fiber, 20 per cent of daily calcium and iron, etc., is the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history."
Freakonomics authors Stephen Dubner and Steven D. Levitt were so intrigued by the claim they published it and opened the discussion to readers.
In New Zealand the burger contains 1850kj and 27.9g of protein, but readers argued they are highly-processed "empty calories" which reduce its nutritional value.
They suggested lentils and rice were of similar cost and nutritional value but also natural and unprocessed.
Senior nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan told MSN another flaw in the claim is the fat and salt content of the burger.
"Even though it may supply some nutrients – we also need to remember that it includes a high amount of saturated fat and salt (sodium) – as do most takeaway fast foods – and food is not very healthy for us if it is high in saturated fat and salt.
"It is very common to purchase this burger along with a serve of ‘fries’ and soft drink – which further raised the saturated fat, kilojoules, sodium and adds in unhealthy amounts of added sugars as well.
Hourigan says other low-cost meals are available that are also highly nutritious and "health-value for money" which incorporate canned vegetables, cheap meats like mince and wholegrains.
Have your say: Are you any more likely to eat the burger with its 'nutritious' label?