THURSDAY 21 JUNE 2012 THE MEN WHO MADE US FAT
The Men Who Made us Fat
An amazing programme on BBC2 (one of three, the next is tonight, 21 June and the final one is next Thursday 28 June) presented by Jacques Peretti, contains alarming information on the obesity epidemic now facing us in Britain.
Going back to the 1960s, the American scientist Ancel Keys conducted his great Seven Countries study that convinced us that the diet eaten by Mediterranean people was the best for reducing heart disease. The trouble was that he put the blame for heart disease mostly on saturated fats. One of his lesser known contributions was to design the “K-Rations” that fed American GIs in the Second World War: the rations weighed only 790g per portion but contained a 'mahoosive' 3200 calories! Incredible. It was, of course, mostly carbs and sugar.
Meanwhile in Britain, Professor John Yudkin was working on the science that went into his 1972 polemic against sugar: Pure, White and Deadly. As early as 1957 he claimed that sugar consumption was closely correlated to coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, raising blood triglycerides and insulin levels.
In the first programme of “The Men Who Made Us Fat”, Perreti showed that the sugar industry spent a great deal of money on lobbyists to discredit Yudkin and defeat a UN World Health Organisation resolution to cut sugar in the diet. Instead food processors, the chief villains, seized on Ancel Keys’s research, and found a niche market selling “low-fat” processed foods. The absence of the 'mouth-feel' which the fat in food gives us was made up by adding sweeteners, and so the products were no less fattening; American consumers proved it by piling on the pounds. We in Britain were slower to take up the trend – but look around you in the London Tube and you’ll see the proof that we have also succumbed!
However, said Peretti, the science now seems to show a causal connection between sugar consumption and obesity. Leptin is a hormone associated with satiety, the feeling of being full – it tells us when we’ve had enough, to stop eating. Surprise, surprise: fructose and other sugars suppress the production of leptin and so what happens? I think you know the answer! This bombshell has been around since the mid-2000s, waiting to explode. So bravo, M. Peretti.
The moral: if you care about your and your family’s heath, the best thing you can do is avoid all those highly processed foods - from sweet and savoury snacks to fizzy drinks. We get all the sugar, especially fructose, the body needs from eating fruit. But remember that a glass of orange juice contains the sugar of several oranges – so maybe that should be an occasional treat, rather than part of breakfast every day!
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