The men who made us fat. Part 1.

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About this work


Jacques Peretti looks at the current obesity epidemic. This is the first of three programmes; this programme looks at the latest research into the causes of obesity by visiting a large number of notable experts in this field. To begin with he speaks to a number of women about their battles with their weight and undergoes a MRi scan under the supervision of Medical Research Council's Professor Jimmy Bell in order to identify all of the 'hidden' fat in his body; there is a surprising amount for a man of average build. Peretti considers the situation in the US in the early 1970s. Earl Butz, US Secretary of Agriculture, pioneered a change in American farming; farmers were encouraged to farm 'fence-post-to-fence-post'. Large farms and intensive farming became the norm. Marion Nestle from New York University comments on the impact of the increased calorie intake due to the addition of corn syrup, a bi-product of corn production into processed foods. This led to the doubling of average calorie intake and since the 1980s corn syrup has been added to most soft drinks. Dr Robert Lustig, University of California, San Francisco, comments that despite corn syrup being sweeter than sucrose, more is added. Unsurprisingly, a spokeswoman from the American Beverage Association, Susan Neely denies this. Scientists have discovered that fructose is potentially 'toxic' - Dr Jean-Marc Schwarz from Touro University, California contributes. It looks as though the consumption of fructose inhibits the production of leptin which is the body's natural 'feeling full' mechanism. In the UK, it is claimed that the obesity epidemic started with the creation of 'snacking'; Terry Jones from the Food & Drink Federation comments. Professor Philp James from the International Association for the Study of Obesity Paul Simons, a former advertising executive, comments on the research behind creating frozen processed foods, which were laden with fat and sugar. After a sabbatical in th UK, Ancel Keys, the creator of the US military K-rations, came to the conclusion that obesity was caused by fat. However, John Yudkin, author of 'Pure, White and Deadly', argued that it was sugar. Dr Richard Bruckdorfer, a contemporary of Yudkin's comments on his experience of working with Yudkin. Unfortunately, the sugar industry discredited his work. Moving on to recent research, the focus is on what is going on in the brain; 'decoding' obesity. Is it possible that some foods are engineered to be addictive? George McGovern, a failed US candidate for the 1972 presidency. He was charged with nutritional guidelines, identifying sugar intake as problematic. In response, sugar was taken out of the report with fat being the culprit. This led to the explosion in the production of 'low fat' food production. Dr Alice Pegg, a food technician, explains how low fat foods are formulated to be tasty. More recently, the World Health Organisation was discouraged from publishing the full implications of sugar intake by the lobbying of the US food industry.


UK : BBC 2, 2012.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL

Copyright note

FreshOne Productions


Broadcast on 14 June, 2012
Contains a clip from the Wellcome Library title 'Cruel Kindness' about childhood obesity.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Chris Boulding, FreshOne Productions for BBC.



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