John Alleman, a 52-year-old unofficial spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill — a restaurant notorious for exorbitantly and intentionally high-calorie fare such as “the Triple Bypass Burger” — has died of a heart attack, according to owner John Basso.
As CBS News reports, the restaurant has come under scrutiny for previous incidents in which regular patrons died of heart-related complications, and the flippant attitude that Basso has demonstrated towards critics of his restaurant’s active encouragement of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles:
[Basso] told the paper the man was not heavy, weighing about 180 pounds, and may have had a genetic predisposition to cardiac problems because both his parents died from heart attacks in their 50s.
The death comes about a year after a man suffered a heart attack while eating one of the restaurant’s 6,000-calorie “Triple Bypass Burgers.” Last February, patrons thought they were witnessing a publicity stunt for the restaurant that says it has a “Taste Worth Dying For” and took out their cell phone cameras, but were ultimately seeing a patron around his 40s having a cardiac episode being wheeled out by paramedics. […]
“I’m here to tell you straight up that I’m here to make a buck,” Basso told CBS This Morning last February. “Anything that’s legal that you want to eat or drink that’s fun, that enriches your life at the moment, I will sell it to you. If I could put danger back into hamburgers, all the better.”
The restaurant also offers free meals to patrons who weigh over 350 pounds.
As CBS points out, the restaurant literally rewards patrons who lead extremely unhealthy — and medically costly — lifestyles. Studies have shown that health care costs directly and indirectly associated with obesity have ballooned alongside Americans’ waistlines, constituting “8.5 percent of Medicare spending, 11.8 percent of Medicaid spending, and 12.9 percent of private-payer spending.”
In an era when public health advocates and some food companies — though not all — are actively looking to improve Americans’ health by curbing unhealthy content in their products and making caloric information readily available, establishments such as the Heart Attack Grill are defiantly moving in the opposite direction. Patronizing such “novelty” restaurants is, of course, a luxury afforded by freedom of choice. But as John Alleman’s story shows, that freedom can come at a steep price to Americans and national health care expenditures.