Happy Birthday Big Mac

For Don Gotske, Friday is a very special day.

It is, after all, the 40th birthday of his favorite food: McDonald's Big Mac.

Gotske, who said he ate his first Big Mac on May 17, 1972, in Fond Du Lac, Wis., said that he still eats two Big Macs every day.

Today he will eat his 21,292nd Big Mac.

"Every Big Mac I eat is like the first one I ever ate," Gotske told ABCNEWS.com.

And Gotske certainly isn't the only one who adores Big Macs. Cities across the country are trying to ban unhealthy foods. It's all rather fine when you're talking about trans fats or pesticide-laden vegetables, but don't even try going near the Big Mac. The burger is sold in more the 13,700 McDonald's restaurants in the United States and in more than 100 countries worldwide. In the United States alone, 560 million Big Macs are sold each year, said Danya Proud, a McDonald's spokeswoman.

Big Mac Is a Big Hit

The Big Mac was first introduced in 1972, when a McDonald's franchise owner in Pennsylvania recommended that the company develop a burger with two beef patties, instead of just one, and overeating became a lot easier.

The double-decker caught on quickly, but not without the help of a clever marketing slogan that is still recited by consumers more than four decades later.

"Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun," reads the jingle, which premiered in a 1975 McDonald's commercial where average people were asked to recite the tongue-twisting slogan as quickly as possible.

In Morgan Spurlock's 2004 documentary "Super Size Me," which chronicled what it was like to exist solely on food from McDonald's for 30 days, Spurlock asked women to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

While the women were unable to remember the words of the pledge, they had no trouble reciting the Big Mac jingle.

Big Macs OK, Sparingly

Forty years later, very little about the Big Mac itself has changed -- other than the packaging, and the massive portions consumed alongside the famous sandwich.

"We do less exercise and eat more calories than we used to," said Dr. Keith Ayoob, an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "A Big Mac used to fill us up. Unfortunately today people tend to want to have a Big Mac, a super-sized fries and 32 ounce soda. At some point, that's just too much for most people."

Of course you can choose the new "healthy choices" on the menu, which were not available 40 years ago, and some people actually do.

"A 540 calorie Big Mac isn't going to push a person over their calorie limit," said Ayoob, who said it's possible to eat at McDonald's and be perfectly healthy. "What's new now is that you can have it with a side salad and a bottle of water -- then it's fine. Forty years ago, there was none of that."

Nutritionists are certain that even if the Big Mac was removed from McDonald's menus -- which is unlikely, to say the least -- there would still be an obesity epidemic.

"No one single food is the cause of the problems we are dealing with," said Dr. Connie Deikman, a registered dietitian and the president of the American Dietetic Association. "And outlawing foods doesn't really work -- we've seen that with alcohol and tobacco -- consumers will find a way to do what they want to do."

Making healthy choices, even if you do eat at fast food restaurants, is the responsible thing to do, said Deikman.

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