Regular readers of this blog will know I am passionate about nutrition and the impact it has on our bodies. This made me very pleased to see the BBC have made a TV show about “The Men Who Made Us Fat”.
Around the world, obesity levels are rising. More people are now overweight than undernourished; two thirds of British adults are overweight and one in four of us is classified as obese. Oddly enough, the expansion of our waistline is also causing many other issues, and has been linked to many health issues including heart disease and cancer. Recently obesity has also caused a fire in a crematorium and part of a house to be demolished in order to get a teenager to hospital!
Last night, in the first of a three-part series on BBC2, Jacques Peretti traced those responsible for revolutionising our eating habits, to find out how decisions made in America 40 years ago influence the way we eat now.
Peretti traveled to America to investigate the story of High Fructose Corn Syrup. The sweetener was championed in the US in the 1970s by Richard Nixon’s Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz to make use of the excess corn grown by farmers. Cheaper and sweeter than sugar, it soon found its way into almost all processed foods and soft drinks. HFCS is not only sweeter than sugar, it also interferes with Leptin, the hormone that controls appetite, so once you start eating or drinking it, you don’t know when to stop.
British nutritionist John Yudkin was one of the first to raise the dangers of sugar but his findings were discredited in America at the time. Meanwhile, a US Congress report blamed fat, not sugar, for the disturbing rise in cardio-vascular disease and the food industry responded with ranges of ‘low fat’, ‘heart healthy’ products in which the fat was removed – but the substitute was yet more sugar.
Meanwhile, in 1970s Britain, food manufacturers used advertising campaigns to promote the idea of snacking between meals. Outside the home, fast food chains offered clean, bright premises with tempting burgers cooked and served with a very un-British zeal and efficiency. Twenty years after the arrival of McDonalds, the number of fast food outlets in Britain had quadrupled. We are also about to get the world’s largest McDonalds as part of the London 2012 Olympics!
This morning, the Telegraph is calling the programme “tabloid-style sensationalism”. Personally I thought it was very interesting and something that I hope lots of people watched. I believe processed food (and refined sugars and sweeteners) are causing a massive decline in human health and the way forward is actually to go backwards – back to eating food the way nature intended it to be.
If you missed the programme you can watch it on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01jxzv8/The_Men_Who_Made_Us_Fat_Episode_1/
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