The men who made us fat – Episode 3

The final episode (aired 12th July 2012)  looked at so called ‘healthy food’ and how this is marketed to people to convince them that it is OK to eat.

Jacques Peretti starts the programme with a visit to a company called Kantar – they track the buying behaviour of 30,000 households nationwide. They sell this intelligence to all the major supermarkets and food manufacturers in Britain. Giles Quick, a director of Kantar is interviewed. Apparently the profile of the typical healthy food buyer is middle class, female, living in the South of England, more highly skilled and more knowledgeable about food stuff but, as Quick says, “they’re getting fatter.”

We spend about £54 billion on food and drink from grocery supermarkets and, of that, about £12 billion is spent on products that we believe are healthy. “That’s grown by about 20% in the last 6 or 7 years”, according to Quick. Quick explains that the more health promises that a product can make, in principle, the higher the price. Quick holds up a Dorset Honey Granola cereal box and reads out the ingredients on the front of the box: “oats, sunflower seeds, flaked almonds, rye flakes, pecans, pumpkin seeds, honey…”

Peretti asks “How fattening is that cereal?” Quick replies “If we take saturated fat…” and then compares the granola cereal with Weetabix and informs us that the granola has more saturated fat. Peretti doesn’t correct Quick to say – I asked how fattening the cereal is not how much marvelous saturated and unsaturated fat it may contain!

Peretti tries again “Do you think consumers get confused between what’s healthy and what is less fattening?” Quick again is off talking about saturated fats. He has clearly picked up the widespread nonsense about what is considered to be healthy and unhealthy and is working in the perfect industry to perpetuate this nonsense.

Peretti is heading a bit off message early on in this third programme – he holds up a bottle of innocent smoothie and says that this has more calories than a can of coca-cola. Then he holds up a Pret “no bread sandwich with rocket and lentils” and says that it has more calories than a Big Mac. Then the granola yoghurt from “Eat” has more calories than this crispy creme doughnut. Who cares? They’re all processed to a greater (doughnut) or lesser (no bread sandwich) extent.

Peretti jumps to a document called “The Health of the Nation”, published in 1992 under John Major’s government. The report tried to set targets for obesity levels; “To reduce the percentage of men and women aged 16-64 who are obese by at least 25% for men and at least 33% for women by 2005 (from 8% for men and 12% for women in 1986/87 to no more than 6% and 8% respectively.)” Oh what a goal! If only we could have just kept obesity at these levels, instead of virtually tripling them for men and more than doubling them for women by 1999.

CJD was the big food story of the time, followed shortly behind by junior health Minister Edwina Currie declaring “most of the egg production in this country sadly is now infected with salmonella” (1988). Currie had to resign over this falsehood, but not before much damage had been done.

Food manufacturers capitalised on this new gift to demonise real food and Procter & Gamble launched “Sunny Delight” with a £10 million ad campaign and added vitamins. Peretti heads off to meet Sue Dibb, co-Director of The Food Commission, who challenged the value of Sunny Delight at the time. She noted that P&G didn’t even try to call Sunny Delight “juice”, or make any health claims – they called the product “an enriched citrus beverage”. The media ran stories about the product being little more than sugared water, but this did little to dent sales. Not even a girl turning orange, after drinking too much of the orange stuff, impacted the enormous profits being made.

I found this episode far more disjointed than the first two. Peretti moves on from Sunny-D to organic produce and how consumers would pay more for this. By 1999 the organic business was worth over £600 million – more than doubling in two years. Sainsbury’s was the first to embrace organic big time launching 300 new products in 1998. Simon Wright was the organic advisor to Sainsbury’s (this episode also missed the name labels for each interviewee, which was unhelpful). Organic was positioned as a response to the CJD/salmonella fears still in the minds of consumers. As Wright says “If you live on organic chocolate, organic ice cream and organic oven chips, you will get fat”. Wright is right when he says that supermarkets are there for profit, not the health of the nation and we should not expect retailers to be trying to help with the obesity epidemic. They exist to make profit and that’s what they’re good at.

“By 2001 obesity had doubled in women and trebled in men and it was rising.” In 2003 the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report called “Diet, Nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases.” It tried to hold the food industry to account. JP Morgan published a report in response, as investors in the food industry and cautioned that, if obesity were now being viewed as an epidemic, this may lead to regulation and regulation would impact profits. The report even ranked companies most exposed to “financial risk”: Hershey number 1; Cadbury number 2; Cocoa-Cola number 3; PepsiCo number 4 and Kraft number 5.

Professor Philip James (also great in the previous two episodes) was head of the International Obesity Taskforce at the time and contributed to the WHO report. In September 2003, he was invited to speak at JP Morgan’s HQ. James describes the JP Morgan report as a “bombshell” because it was a business report, out of the health world and into the bottom line. James notes that the food industry is paranoid about regulation and that JP Morgan was speaking on behalf of the biggest global industry in the world. This was simultaneously seen as a business opportunity – the ‘food’ industry just needed to come up with apparently healthy alternatives to their products seen as unhealthy and then carry on making money. (Professor James tells a great story – I’d love to see a programme with just him talking about his experiences with the ‘food’ industry over the years).

Kath Dalmeny, from the Food Commission was up next (I’ve checked the names on line in the absence of the speaker labels). She was asked about the ‘food’ industry response to the JP Morgan report and suggested that companies could either reformulate products and make them healthier or change the product perception so that they appeared healthier. Claims on packaging appeared such as “contains fruit”, even when it may have only contained 0.1% fruit flavour. “Calcium” labels on children’s products were big attractions to parents. Dalmeny gives a good example of how Cadbury, a company that would struggle to present its products as healthy, partnered with the government on provision of sports kit for schools and then it could present itself as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. This “get active/healthy lifestyle” message has been reiterated by the junk food companies ever since, as highlighted in this great blog by Yoni Freedhoff.

Dalmeny gives the example that this sports kit promotion meant that you’d have to spend £38 on chocolate to get a netball that would cost £5 in the shops. A cricket set would require £1,100 to be spent on chocolate (and half a million calories) or £150 in the shops. The calculations done by the Food Commission hit media headlines and even made the Have I got news for you TV programme. Dalmeny and her boss were summoned to Cadbury head office in London and ‘given a row’, as we say in Wales! The scheme did, at least, quietly disappear. Go Dalmeny! However, the whole connection of activity with junk food was seeded and has only been enhanced since – note McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Cadbury as sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics.

In 2006 the food industry “faced a real challenge”. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) wanted to review food labeling. The FSA looked at Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) and decided to recommend a traffic light system – red for high; amber for medium and green for low. Sainsbury’s, Co-Op and Waitrose went for the new system. Tesco, Morrison and Kellogg stuck with the GDAs.

Richard Ayre was on the FSA when they scrutinised food labeling. Ayre was interviewed and said that the FSA asked consumers and tested options with them to see which system would enable them to make the healthiest choices. Consumers preferred traffic lights. Ayre said that the ‘food’ industry reaction was that the FSA wanted to “slap a red traffic light” on every bar of chocolate or every tub of butter or spread. Ayre was disappointed, rather than surprised, by the ‘food’ industry response “because they wouldn’t show us the evidence upon which they rejected what was clear to us was the right, preferred system for consumers”. Ayre went on to say “Almost 300,000 people in Britain work for Tesco. If Tesco are unhappy with a policy, governments listen. Tesco was fantastically powerful in this debate.”

Peretti asks a great question at this point: “We’re in a time when obesity’s an epidemic and yet health food is the fastest growing sector in the food industry. I wonder how those two things square?” Ayre: “So called health food”. (Quite!) Ayre says that “In the absence of a single, clear, simple labeling system, consumers really are at the mercy of the marketing department.” Ayre gives the example – we know people can be fooled that a pizza is healthy because it has a bit of pineapple on top of it. (A perfect food according to dieticians surely?! A meal based on starchy food with one of your ‘five-a-day’! ;-))

Peretti notes that “within six months of the coalition government coming to power, the FSA was stripped of responsibility for food labeling.” The battle shifted to Brussels. Members of the European Parliament had the power to introduce food traffic lights across Europe but “David was fighting Goliath”. David being the small food charities and Goliath being the ‘food’ giants.

MEP, Glenis Willmott, was interviewed next – she fought hard for traffic lights. It was estimated that the food companies spent over a billion Euros to stop traffic lights. The ‘food’ company defence was that there was no evidence that people preferred traffic lights. “This isn’t what the research said” said Willmott. Willmott said that the resources at the hands of the charities were miniscule in comparison.

This part of the programme is only interesting to show the power of the ‘food’ industry. I don’t support the traffic light labeling system and Peretti should have questioned its value for two reasons, if not more:

1) Because current dietary advice thinks that carbs are good and fat is bad (and Peretti should have made this connection from his opening episode), anything with real, vital, nutritious fat (including seeds, nuts, meat, fish, eggs and dairy) would get slapped with a red label for fat content, while flour would get the green light for being low in fat and sugar. It’s also low in anything nutritious, hence my opposition to this system. The most nutritious foods should be given the green light and processed foods given the red light. The traffic light system would not achieve this.

2) My second reason for not liking the traffic light system (or the GDA for that matter) is that I have a very simple labeling policy: “If something needs a label, don’t eat it”!

Back to Peretti who is back in America – meeting Pierre Chandon, visiting professor at Harvard Business School. Chandon has done “ground breaking research” into how companies market fattening foods as healthy. Chandon opens with “I call this the paradox of low fat food and high fat people.” (I like him already.) “Maybe all this ‘healthy’ food is the reason why we’re not losing weight.”  (I like him more.) Chandon compared two fast food chains – Subway, which is marketed in the US as a place where you can get healthy food and lower calorie sandwiches and McDonalds. Chandon has a subway sandwich in front of him with 900 calories – 50% more than in a Big Mac. When consumers were asked – they thought that the Big Mac had more calories. Chandon’s second finding was – having thought the sandwich was healthier, people were more likely to ‘treat’ themselves to a dessert or a “full calorie drink”. (Oh dear – why did he have to be a calorie counter? Why couldn’t he just stick with low fat food is fake and bad?) Chandon explained that people associate “fresh” with “healthy” and the sandwich chain therefore gets “the health halo”.

Chandon summed up the problem as – if people think something is healthy, they think it has fewer calories and eat more of it. He mocked up some “low fat M&M’s” and two test groups were given regular M&M’s and what they thought were “low fat M&M’s” and they consumed up to 50% more of the perceived low fat sweets. Great end quote “Today it’s almost impossible to buy food that’s not saying it’s healthy. The paradox of low fat food and high fat people is not going to go away. I think it’s going to get worse.”

Back to England and Peretti is shown surfing in an internet cafe. Peretti voice over:” Before the Conservative party entered office, Andrew Lansley, then shadow health minister, declared he was also a paid non executive director of Profero – a marketing agency whose clients included Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Mars.” While ostensibly trying to tackle obesity, Lansley invited the inputs of food giants. Meetings took place at the HQ of Unilever. The Chair of Unilever UK actually chaired the meetings and major food and grocery organisations were around the table (Tesco, ASDA, Advertising agencies and more).

Professor Simon Capewell, a leading expert in public health at the University of Liverpool, was invited to join the group. He was invited by the PR head from Unilever – incredibly! Capewell wanted to lay out the evidence for interventions around the world that had worked.  Capewell mentioned Scandinavia – Finland in particular as having achieved great success. Capewell argued that this success had been based on regulation of the ‘food’ industry and serious regulation of advertising. Capewell explained that all members were invited to present papers and actual presentations. He recalled that they listened with politeness and then nothing happened.

Peretti does ask some great questions – he asked Capewell what was actually discussed at the meeting? What were the objectives of the meeting? Capewell said that instead of discussing interventions and regulation, the ‘food’ industry wanted to talk about “pretty packages to say that it’s the responsibility of individuals if they get fat and, in particular, that the government has no duty of care.”

Peretti asked where Andrew Lansley lay – Capewell said that it was very clear that Lansley’s interests and the ‘food’ industry’s interests were completely in agreement. Another great closing quote – this one from Capewell – “Putting the food industry at the policy table is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”

(While I loved this interview, unfortunately Capewell’s Heart of Mersey work shows him to be part of the anti-fat, cholesterol-phobic group. The Heart of Mersey paper is being relied upon by NICE to try to lower UK fat intake recommendations further, which will only lead the UK to consume more carbohydrates and drive obesity ever upwards. I have presented a comprehensive response to NICE highlighting the many flaws in this paper.)

In May 2010, the coalition was formed and Lansley became Secretary of State for Health. Within a year the new government had set out its strategy to fight obesity: “The Public Health Responsibility Deal”. It invited industry to make voluntary pledges to reduce salt, fat and sugar in their products and to remove artificial trans fats. The ‘food’ companies happily signed up to trying to help the UK reduce calorie intake by 5 billion calories a day by 2020. (So Mars can cut the calories in a Mars Bar, keep the price the same and increase profits. I reviewed this England obesity strategy here.)

MP Valerie Vaz sits on the commons health select committee and doesn’t think much of the responsibility deal. “We need something much more specific. It won’t be effective. There’ll be absolutely no result at the end of this. We’ll be sitting here in five years time saying there is a problem with obesity and nothing will have changed.” (Vaz for health minister!)

Public health minister, Anne Milton, is in charge of the government’s policy on obesity. Milton doesn’t even like the words “obesity crisis” or “obesity epidemic”. (No denial there then.) Milton’s view is: “When you think of obesity, everyone would like to think that it’s somebody else’s problem.”

Peretti argues that 5 billion calories by 2020 is too vague. Peretti then does a bit of finger wagging and claims that the problem is the “sheer amount of calories”. Oh dear. a) It’s the number of calories and b) it’s not about calories. Milton thinks 5 billion calories is realistic – not vague. Milton reiterates the coalition line “We need to work with the food industry.  If they can make a profit selling apples rather than chocolate bars then that’s great by me.” (Apologies – I think I heard myself saying “you stupid cow” at this point, which is quite unfair to cows).

Peretti asks another great question – “Under what circumstances would you legislate?”

Milton: “You can’t legislate your way out of this.”

Peretti: “”Why can’t you legislate your way out of this?”

Milton: “Because you can’t.”

Peretti: “Why are you so scared of the food industry?”

Milton: “Can we do a minute of myth busting here? First of all the food industry does not dictate government policy. Secondly the government is not scared of the food industry. Thirdly we will do what works… We will legislate should it be necessary. We’ve got voluntary agreements at the moment.” Milton ended with “Scared of the industry I am not.” Glad we cleared that one up!

Peretti nails it at the end: “In my opinion there will be a tipping point and that will be when the cost to the NHS of the obesity crisis is greater than the revenue they receive from the food industry.”A great way to end a great series.

It was a shame that the promise of the first episode couldn’t be maintained and that there was far too much focus on calories and that saturated fat was allowed to be demonised even once. However, Peretti’s questions were superb, his exposure of ‘food’ industry bosses and government ministers was clinical and his message was a vital one. We can’t get enough programmes like this on Prime Time TV so thank you BBC and Jacques Peretti for being bold, brave trailblazers.

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20 comments on “The men who made us fat – Episode 3
  1. avatar Alan says:

    I watched the Robert Lusting “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” lecture on August 3rd and together with yours and all the other stuff out there, I finally get it.

    I all but packed in alcohol on January 13th 2012. OK, I’ve probably had 20 pints since then with Sunday dinner at the pub and all that sort of caper but one can’t be perfect. It’s better than my old 2 pints per night habit.

    Having had the final step of enlightenment from Dr Lusting, I also gave up fruit sugar on August 4th and that means all of its derivatives too.

    OK, so here’s the deal since August 4th:

    – I eat only pretty much single ingredient food. I’m really looking to avoid sugar and not too worried about it being pure single ingredient but chemistry sets are off the menu. Why are they putting sugar in the bread? Annoying that is!

    – I’m eating to my hunger signals and stopping on my full signals only. After my 80 mile cycle, my signals said to eat loads that evening and again in the morning but after that they said enough. Without the sugar in the diet, these signals seem to be trustworthy.

    – I’ve dropped 5lb. I’ve still been cycling 160 miles per week but before August 4th I was a rock steady 11 stone / BMI=22.3 and had been for a good few weeks. But it’s just fallen off and I’m 10st 9lb / BMI=21.6.

    – I’m drinking less on the bike, like 50% less. I drink on demand and I’m just not demanding it.

    – My urine is clearer. I guess that’s less uric acid from metabolising less fructose.

    – I’m much more energetic and not wanting to sleep for so long; probably 6 hours now instead of 7 previously.

    – I’ve got faster on the bike; I estimate something between 10-20% more continuous power output and that does not happen overnight. This is interesting and needs more investigation because unfortunately I crashed the bike into a dry stone wall on August 3rd on the Cat & Fiddle descent (puncture at a very bad time ran me wide and I got dragged along it at about 25 mph), so my ribs are nicely bruised and I’m only on 90% lung capacity as the last 10% still hurts when I stretch the old rib cage. I also gave blood last night, so need to make that back too as that will not help. I’ll report my findings in a few more weeks.

    – The bike feels a lot easier to ride. For example, there’s a road called Long Hill, which is 4.4 miles of continuous uphill at 3.2% gradient (no flats or downhill sections to take a breather). I went up it last Friday August 10th (6 days off the sugar) and not only did I get my personal record time (19:43 compared to 22:46 the week before; which is an amazing improvement in itself) but it felt so much easier. In fact, I only came home after 80 miles because I had to pick my daughter up. I’m postulating that this is due to increasing insulin sensitivity, so reducing my base insulin level and allowing better transport to and from the muscles but I’m no biochemist.

    – My peak heart rate measured on the very steep mile long climb through Pott Shrigley Brickworks went up to 182 bpm, compared with 178 the week before. I got a PB on that too and wasn’t all in by the time I got to the top like I usually am.

    – I’ve had to buy 30″ jeans. I not long ago bought the 32″. The whole bottom half of my wardrobe is now a problem as I’ve got cycling legs. Time to put another hole in the belt for now.

    Domestic harmony not good but there we go. My wife is to sugar as Nico-Teen was to cigarettes if you recall that public information film from the 80’s. “Sugar is empty calories”, she trots out as she gives my daughter yet more sugary whatevers. Not happy and struggling to bike lip. I have said I’m OK up to the ~45g GDA (although I think that’s too high anyway) but she said it was fine to double that. Aggghhhh!

    I’ve got my mother in law here tonight saying something about not abusing my body. Hmmmm, right on! I did my calorie balance for a typical day when I’m doing 2 hours on the bike (1500 kCal expenditure) and didn’t have a family meal and it’s 33% from carbs, 35% from fat and 32% from protein, total kCal=3100. I forget what the balance should be but that looks pretty reasonable to me for what I’m doing. A bit short on the calorie balance for the day but I felt so full I couldn’t eat anything else.

  2. avatar Alicia L. says:

    I agree overall–the first episode was a great start but it went downhill after that. I was frustrated with how Peretti continued to use the description of “fattening foods,” but failed to connect the dots with the first episode about how sugar is fattening, not fat. I have a feeling this was misleading and only continued to perpetuate the idea of calories in/calories out and the conventional wisdom of following a low-fat, low sodium and high-carbohydrate diet.

    Second, I too disagree about the use of the stop-light nutritional labeling for the same reasons you mentioned above. Additionally, I think it also far oversimplifies nutrition and makes it even less informative for people. The general population is so confused by nutrition to begin with, and giving them a stop-light system to follow further removes the onus for them to understand it. The program also described the “halo” effect of people eating more of what they perceived to be a healthy item (eg. Subway sandwich vs. McDonald’s Big Mac). Slapping a green label on something is likely to promote that same over-consumption of a “healthy” food (it’s low-calorie, low-fat, etc–I can eat as much as I want).

  3. avatar Alan says:

    Since I posted above, I’ve been doing some cross-research and I’m coming around to your way of thinking (looking back, manufactured pork products and biscuits have been my most major downfalls). I’m experimenting with avoiding manufactured “food” and sugar to see how my body reacts. I’m continuing to do 150 road bike miles per week, so I’ll see if I reduce BMI and don’t reduce training volume and reduce my time trial time. I have to say that a few more chickens are now gainfully employed and I’m starting to cringe when I see what my child is craving but I’ll have to take small steps to maintain domestic harmony. I shall report back in a month.

  4. avatar Linda says:

    Food labelling can be so misleading, particulary the traffic lights system. Sausages can be given a ‘green light’ for sugar, whilst candyfloss can be given the same rating for fat content. Go figure.

  5. avatar M says:

    Hey Alan, when I lost 2 stones my family started calling me “elegaunt”. Haha! Have to say I found it amusing because they were right: too many harp strings under the neck and collar bones I could drink soup from. After a certain age losing too much weight isn’t necessarily flattering. I now try to balance my weight so that I have a little more fat on my face and neck. Unfortunately, this leaves me with too much on the belly. Can’t win.

  6. avatar Denis says:

    Did anybody know/notice that this series was produced by Fresh One? This is Jamie Oliver’s production company and might explain Sainsburys’ positive coverage.

  7. avatar Peter Jenkins says:

    Could not have put it better myself, M. But as in all things, isn’t it a shared sense of responsibility. Its only because I went after the correct information and purged the family cupboard of the processed junk, that we now all sit down to home cooked real food. But as Zoe and Jacques indicated, its in darn near everything you buy that comes in a packet. Until supermarkets put their responsibilities towards national health before the bottom line, all we will ever get is window dressing. The information as it stands is just bewildering. For most of us, we want something simple to follow and of course a company like Weight Watchers panders to this, but they are still just a taxi plying for hire. What a shame the supermarkets could not plug this gap themselves, but with good, responsible and ethical marketing.

    I now view supermarkets in a whole different light; they are just full of rows and rows of brightly-packaged, interesting ways to fill me with sugar, salt, refined carbs and a host of Es. (BTW, Zoe, I am just 2lbs away from losing 10% of my body weight. All I’ve done is to change my diet in the above way, started to swim to exercise my heart (its a muscle like any other). I have shed this in 7 weeks.

    So in the final analysis, its easier than you think. Look at all of these rows of food in their bright tinsel-clad packets and where you see an inviting picture, imagine you’re seeing a skull and crossbones. Zoe’s analysis on the Kellog’s mini bites illustrates this beautifully.

  8. avatar Alan says:

    A very interesting series and I was pretty horrified to see how the food industry manipulates its customers. It’s just a pity I couldn’t get my wife to watch it and she’s the one that should based on the daily rituals of “it’s baked so it’s OK” etc. foods that she consumes (the truth hurts those that are affected, so they switch off). Personally I like a bit of cake and the like from time to time, so I don’t go with total vilification of the food industry per se but it’s a question of balance and I dont; care what anyone says but there IS an aspect of individual self control that we need to use.

    To me it’s only one side of the problem, whereas an equal part of the problem is the proliferation of the car. Together, poor food and the lack of need to use one’s legs are a seriously bad combination. I would like to say “roll on high petrol prices” but there are implications for the whole economy and based on my wife’s view, she would continue to use the car irrespective of the cost, so that’s not necessarilty going to work.

    Personally, I rejected alcohol and rediscovered my bicycle last year. I lost 3 stone and this has now moved on to an extent where the bicycle, walking and running are my primary means of transport within the 50 mile range when I am alone. I now get called “gaunt”, which I find offensive in the extreme as I now have a BMI of 22.5 (spot on the centre of what the doctor would recommend). Unfortunately, society wants to drag everyone to their level of sloth because as individuals they do not want to make the effort necessary to improve their own health. Yes, unhealthy food is pushed at us and yes it’s lovely and yes I’ll be the first to demolish a whole packet of fig rolls but at the end of the day, I CAN leave them on the shelf or I can look at the calories and equate that to the number of miles I need to do. The difference is, I’ll do the miles, whereas most people will demolosh the food and not balance it out on the exercise.

  9. avatar M says:

    Fair summary Zoe. Although this episode missed the mark in some ways, it did highlight how ingenious food manufacturers and advertisers are. Coupled with the recent documentary about how the health message is being hijacked by the manufacturers I think the public can admit they have been warned. We simply must accept that whatever the zeitgeist; food manufacturers will find a way to capitalise on it. That is their business. Our business is to take care of thyself by avoiding fillers masquerading as food. Consumers are driving this whether we care to admit it or not. People love the convenience and high palatability of these counterfeits. Until consumers seek out info and educate themselves it won’t change.

    Btw I enjoyed your talk at the Real Food Summit over at Underground Wellness. Great series of talks they were.

  10. avatar Jessica says:

    What a shame about the saturated fats!! I was shouting at the screen, “Come on, you started off so well, this is just going to damage all the stuff you told us in the first programme”.

    I have no problem with labels as sometimes it helps me rather than hinders me. I treat myself to a simple Thai curry sometimes, and discovered by chance that the half-fat tin of coconut milk contains half the carbs of a full fat one. It is one exception where I will buy half fat not full fat. Carb values are what are important to me (plus we SHOULD be divulging how much sugar something has, just to keep getting through to people that everything has too much).

    I’ve just been told by my diabetic expert that if they had put me on the 600 calories a day diet now being recommended for type 2 diabetics, I would no longer have diabetes. Now, this diet works. I suspect it works since 600 calories a day, now matter what the mix, is going to be considerably less than what you are eating at present. Second, it more than likely DOES shock your liver into releasing all its fat and you start reacting normally to insulin again. However, I don’t know if it’s a long term solution, nor (if you haven’t learned eating disciplines in the way I have, from trial and error and strict control) how many people will go back to eating high sugar, high carb foods which will give them type 2 all over again. Won’t this just turn into yo-yo dieting, which is supposed to be really bad for us?……….

    OK, so governments are not afraid of the food industry………Yeah, OK, whatever. I sighed when I saw that.

    Catherine, I eat full fat everything, and my cholesterol is 4.1. I think these figures are rubbish. A friend has just been through everything the doctor has told her to do to lower hers, and it has now gone up to the 7 mark. She’s pretty much giving up now. I will take statins up to the point where they affect my health and then they will go into the bin.

    Zoe – any comment on the study of youngsters who watch more telly than others being fatter? Is it that more exercise lowers BG levels? Not that it will be put down to that of course. And how about “Dispatches” – they won’t print my comment on their website trying to point out the REAL myth…..

  11. avatar Catherine says:

    I didn’t see the programme, but did see the article on the BBC website, which actually contained the three comparisons: McDonalds & Pret salad, Innocent smoothie and Coke, and the Krispy Kreme Donut and the yogurt. I was moved to send the BBC a rather outraged email in response to this, as I felt the implication was “you might as well eat the donut because it’s got fewer calories” ditto for the Coke and the McDonalds. I have had no response other than the standard “thank you for your email”, but I did note that the article had disappeared the next day (often, they keep such things “live” for a few days after they first appear). I didn’t realise that the three comparisons came from the TV show (I’m not sure it was mentioned in the article, actually). I had a rather interesting discussion with colleagues this morning about fat and cholesterol. One’s level is 5.5, and he’s being told this is “high”, and that he’s considered obese because of his BMI figure – he’s a slim, active firefighter, for heaven’s sake! The other, who has type 2 diabetes, was put on statins instantly he was diagnosed, despite his cholesterol having been only 3.2 prior to the diagnosis. The first one says he’s trying not to worry about his cholesterol, and the other says he’s not worried by “having” to take statins. The second one, who is in his late fifties now, has a brother who also has Type 2, and had another brother who died at 50, of heart disease of which no one was aware. His father died young, of heart disease, too. I wonder if their cholesterol was ever measured? Do you think it likely that theirs was also low? A most interesting point! It’s a shame that the “Men who made us fat” programme didn’t slam home the argument against calorie counting, despite clearly making some good points and raising some brilliant questions. It’s clear to me that Ms Milton hasn’t got a clue about calories or how many per person that massive figure represents. That’s a Digestive biscuit, I reckon, 74-100 calories. Simples!

  12. avatar Alex Kilbey says:

    Hi Zoe,

    Once again thank you for summarising this. Again I agree that the programme lost momentum after the first episode and was probably the most disappointing of the three.

    Sadly, my maths evaded me for a minute when I missed a significant digit in my head and thought that the government wanted us to drop 1,000 calories per day. I was temporarily apoplectic about how we would all go into starvation mode before realising that there are only 100 50millions in 5 billion, then thought that it was all pointless anyway. Strange woman, Anne Milton, I found her scary, condescending and defensive all at the same time.

    Again I was annoyed by the comments about saturated fat and especially how the traffic light scheme would cause problems. But, in general I felt it fell flat.

    A word of advice to the director would be to stop the arty camera-work and focus on the content. Peretti’s method of talking to the side of the camera was very off-putting as he appeared to be talking to my cat on one side of me or the empty settee on the other. Documentary makers should talk to the camera.

    A good series but a few opportunities missed, I feel,

    Alex

  13. avatar Edna says:

    I’m not sure I’d describe the Pret no-bread sandwich as ‘processed’ – it is just a salad. What was your reasoning? (It contains the following: ham, lentils, egg, rocket, peppers, pine nuts, balsamic salad dressing). http://www.pret.com/menu/sushi_salads_soups/no_bread_italian_prosciutto_lentil_PUK4920.shtm

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi Edna – ham is invariably processed meat and no doubt the dressing has sugar and other stuff in it. I did indicate that this was processed to a lesser extent so it is about as good as you can get out and about in a city.
      Best wishes – Zoe

  14. avatar Tom Welsh says:

    “Chandon’s second finding was – having thought the sandwich was healthier, people were more likely to ‘treat’ themselves to a dessert or a “full calorie drink”. (Oh dear – why did he have to be a calorie counter? Why couldn’t he just stick with low fat food is fake and bad?)”

    You may be doing him an injustice – constant exposure does tend to make one hyper-sensitive! Maybe he just meant a “sugar-loaded drink”.

  15. avatar Travis Koger says:

    The argument about the government being scared of the food industry, and how much power Tesco wields within this debate is not taken into consideration with the cost to the NHS and lives lost due to obesity.

    Also, Valerie Vaz is mistaken about nothing having changed regarding the obesity epidemic… in five years time there *will* be something to show at the end of it, there will be more obese people, the costs to the NHS will be higher and everyone at the top will once again be blaming the *fat* people for not being able to control their eating. It will of course not be the fault of the food industry and yet more studies will be released showing how people are even less active than they were 30 years ago. The food industry will also be able to point to the failures of each campaign as proof that the campaigns do not work and that it is still the people who are at fault.

    All the while, carbs will be consumed in even greater numbers than they are today in an effort to *get healthy* and there will be Drs yelling at the fat burners about how they are doing it all wrong.

    Enter Dr. Peter Attia’s NuSI to provide some actual hard data showing how fat is not the enemy.

    Thanks for the review on the episode Zoe.

  16. avatar PDL says:

    5 billion calories per day is how much per person per day?

    UK population is projected in 2020 to be 67.2 million …
    5 000 000 000 / 67 200 000 = 74.4047619

    So their “pledge” is to reduce the daily intake by 74 calories … can’t Peretti point out that the maths is practically embarrassingly small? It works out to just 3% off a 2500 calorie / day (4% off 2000). Not that all calories count the same, but even then it’s paltry.

    Big numbers need context to be weighed properly.

    • avatar Zoë says:

      Hi PDL – We went the same route! I worked it out in this post at the time as 100 cals per person. This was an England obesity strategy with Wales, Scotland and Ireland having devolved health services. This was why (as the blog post said) the simultaneous announcement of the recommended daily calories for men and women going UP to 2,079 and 2,605 for women and men respectively.

      They seem to be telling English people that they need more than they thought but should be eating 100 fewer calories anyway. As this video hopefully shows – cut 100 calories of quality meat/fish/eggs and you’re lost health, not weight; cut 100 calories of sugar (better still the whole 400 that the average Brit consumes daily) and the health and weight of the nation would be transformed. Trouble is – the people in charge of obesity know less about the topic than many of the people they preside over!
      Best wishes – Zoe

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