Fast food has often been linked to high cholesterol in humans over the years, but what does it do to the scavenging species who live off our salty, greasy, and delicious discards? To answer this question, a group of researchers at Hamilton College in New York did what any intrepid group of scientists would do: They fed cheeseburgers to crows.
Rural crows, to be more precise. New Scientist reports of a study conducted around the blood cholesterol levels of crows in urban areas, to answer whether fast food has the same effect on the crows’ overall levels as it tends to on humans. To facilitate this, “the team ran a ‘cheeseburger supplementation experiment’ where they left McDonald’s cheeseburgers near nests in rural New York” after a previous study by the team found that crows in urban areas were likelier to exhibit high blood cholesterol levels than those in rural areas.
The study found that “The burger-fed crows had higher cholesterol than nearby rural crows that weren’t given fast food. Those that ate the burgers had cholesterol levels more similar to crows living in cities, being about 5% higher than their burger-deficient neighbors.” Setting aside the nature of “burger-deficient crows” as a highly amusing phrase, the study’s findings were reportedly consistent with previous explorations of cholesterol levels in animals living near humans.
While eating cheeseburgers raised the crows’ cholesterol levels, the tests were inconclusive about whether any of the more severe effects found in humans would be reflected in the birds; as the researchers note, cholesterol’s effects on the human body sometimes take years to manifest. That said, it’s also noted that the tests “didn’t seem to hurt” the birds at the time. One could only hope not.