Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Do you want to know the history of food? Jacques Poretti traces the history of the western food diet over three episodes. This is an outline of the first episode.
Video 1: The People Who Made Us Fat – Episode 1
1. 2/3 of British are overweight. This problem has happened very quickly.
2. With weight increases comes the increased chance of getting other diseases such as cancer, heart problems, diabetes etc..
3. Major question – who has caused this? Is it the food companies, the government or bad choices for people?
4. Our society is full of food temptations – we are continually being encouraged to consume more. (eg: Buy 1 and get 1 free)
5. The food industry has changed the nature of what we eat.
6. We have not read the labels but have trusted what we have been sold as the food we can eat.
7. Trouble is that some people are skinny on the outside but have huge deposits of fat around their organs. (TOFI – Thin on outside fat on the inside)
8. The food industry has created a war – we are being encouraged to eat more and more food and as a society, we are losing the war against obesity.
9. We have become fat over the last 40 years.
10. Are we losing the war against obesity?
11. Fattening food is available everywhere. We cannot get away from these foods.
Why? (7 minutes 32 seconds)
1. The answer comes from America and president Nixon.
a. During the Vietnam War, housewives in America protested at the soaring costs of food.
b. Earl Butz had a huge impact on the food we eat now.
c. Earl was a friend to farmers and had a vision for farmers. He wanted small farmers to become big or get out. Farms became industrialized.
d. They were told to farm from fence to fence row. No land wat to be unproductive.
e. Increased corn yields led to cows being fed corn.
f. There was more surplus corn than what could be eaten. They needed to find a new use for the corn. Farmers were subsidised by the government to grow corn so they kept growing.
g. A new product was invented. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) was made from corn. This industrial sweetener changed the American diet forever.
h. This led to a huge increase in the calories available to people.
i. Superbowl – this is the time Americans eat a massive amount of food! Most food consumed contains corn.
j. Coke and Pepsi in America changed the sweetener in their drinks from sugar the HFCS. This was because the price of sugar was going up and this was 1/3 cheaper. There was no research on the effects on the body and the savings allowed them to make even bigger profits. Cups and bottles became bigger and there became an increasing demand for their products. Average consumption was 600 cans a year for the average American. The more HFCS the more addictive and the more people buy.
k. The debate is the question of whether it is the lack of exercise or the consumption of soft drinks is causing obesity.
l. With the increase of consumption of HFCS in drinks came a huge increase in weight for the consumer. Research has shown how HFCS / fructose is converted into fat. In our society now there is a tsunami of sugar leading to cardio issues and a weight problem. The huge amounts that are being consumed is a huge concern.
m. Fructose suppresses leptin – this causes fat to be produced. Leptin stops you eating and regulates body weight.
n. Fructose has a terrible effect on the liver.
In Britain (24 minutes 50 seconds)
1. Companies found a new way to get people to buy more. They found a way to encourage people to eat snacks between meals. Eating between meals was frowned upon in the early 1970s.
2. Companies made new times and places to eat. These once empty times for food companies became a time to encourage people to eat a snack. This created a whole new industry of selling snack foods. The phrase ‘Just Enough” was very catchy.
3. The invention of the freezer made a massive difference in how people ate. There was a new industry created that froze desserts and sold them to customers which could be eaten whenever they wanted and instead of being a treat could be consumed daily. No one knew what the ingredients were and did not care. They contained huge amounts of sugar.
4. In 1974 McDonalds arrived. There is a link between fast foods and obesity. Before 1970 obesity was not an issue.
Sugar and Fat Debate (30 minutes 30 seconds)
1. Ancel Keys was an American physiologist who studied the influence of diet on health. In particular, he hypothesized that eating dietary saturated fat causes cardiovascular heart disease and should be avoided. He saw sugar as good and something that gave us energy. He developed the K ration for American soldiers.
2. He went to England, saw the bad diets full of fatty food and their bad health and guessed that fat alone caused heart disease. He also guessed that eating fat caused obesity. He spent his life trying to prove this.
3. John Yudkin wrote a book called “Pure White and Deadly” This book saw sugar as the key cause of obesity and heart disease. This was based on science. The food industry did not like his message so he was discredited and kicked out. As a result, the industry could keep making sweet foods. We have ignored his warning and so we are paying for it now.
How Does the brain/mind react to sweet foods? ( 36 minutes 00 seconds)
1. Different parts of the brain react to different sweet foods. The brain is affected by different sights, smells and tastes that activate the body to stimulate the desire to eat (appetite)
2. Our world is full of socially acceptable cues for food. The brain is constantly being activated with signals for food. (eg: TV, advertising on billboards, shop advertising etc)
3. Hedonic response – It creates a highly pleasurable sensation and this takes over our brain. Foods high in sugar stimulate the brain. The pleasure sensation is overpowering for some people. This quickly can lead to addiction to food.
4. Major question – is what we eat the responsibility of the individual or the food companies or the government?
Dietary Guidelines – 1977 (44 minutes 25 seconds)
1. George McGovern created a dietary guideline for Americans.
2. This was not liked by the food companies, so the report was buried.
3. How they were acting towards food and the public is similar to how the tobacco companies were acting before smoking was seen as dangerous to your health.
4. In the final report that was released, sugar was not mentioned. They advocated removing fat from food only.
5. Industry moved in quickly and started producing food that was low in fat and people were told it was healthy for the heart and stopped them putting on weight. This was a massive business opportunity.
6. Companies made massive products selling low-fat foods. They took fat out of food and reformulated foods to taste the same but contained massive amounts of sugar. Fat was replaced with sugar.
7. A new lie was spoken – if you eat fat you become fat.
8. In the year 2000, scientists started looking at sugar. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the World Health Organisation (WHO) wrote a paper to say sugar was bad. Industry lobbyists forced America to withdraw funding for the WHO from America if this was released. So the paper about sugar was withheld.
The Silver Lining (57:25)
For companies, selling healthy food is a gamble. They need to know consumers will buy healthy products and they will make money from them. If we stop buying the high sugar foods and move towards healthy options more companies will sell them and as they produce more the costs will go down.