THE MEN WHO MADE US FAT: Thursday 14th June, BBC2, 9pm
“There is no link between soft drinks and obesity..” Susan Neely, a mouthpiece for the American Beverage Association tells Jacques Peretti. We wouldn’t like to play poker against her, because she doesn’t smile once, even as the camera lingers following her obvious lie.
“It’s like saying that because you go in the ocean, you’re going to get eaten by a shark!” she adds. Of course no one actually says that though. She’s just imagined a ridiculous idiom and convinced herself that it proves her point. Either way, you just KNOW that the clip will be trotted out in a couple of decades time, just like the 60s adverts in which some medical expert extols the health benefits of smoking while wheeling a barrow full of cash to the bank.
We didn’t expect her to say anything else to be honest and let’s face it, drinks companies may be the biggest single obesity-causing product but they’re certainly not the only one, however this point does illustrate the crux of this documentary nicely. Basically it’s not our fault that we’re fat, it’s the fault of the food companies and a few other post-war individuals. Conspiracy theories ahoy!
Between them, obesity and corporate power have received a fair bit documentary heat in recent times, but The Men Who Made Us Fat presents a clear, well-defined and interesting angle to the whole debate. Yet it’s not quite as ground-breaking as it thinks. Anyone who’s surprised by the ruthless way that big food and drink companies chase increased margins, regardless of their customer’s health has lead a very sheltered life.
Yet the first episode of Peretti’s three-part miniseries still shines by providing a detailed post-war food history which effectively singles out where, when and how the food industry turned into the fat-spluttering behemoth that it is today.
Apart from the chilling opening segment on ‘internal fat’, the bit was when Peretti explained how British physiologist and scientist John Yudkin was vilified for his book ‘Pure, White and Deadly’ a book which flew in the face of 1970s opinion that fat and NOT sugar was solely responsible for heart disease. “He was discredited by everyone, but I see him as a prophet,” said Dr Robert Lustig of the University of California. “If you read ‘Pure, White and Deadly’, it’s all there. For him to be discredited was a disservice to society.” Bloody Americans..
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