One of the first men on Peretti’s hit list was Earl Butz, the American
Secretary of Agriculture in the 1970s, who encouraged US farmers to grow
huge quantities of corn. The surplus was turned into high-fructose corn
syrup (HFCS), which started to be used as a cheap sweetener in foodstuffs,
from cakes to soft drinks. By 1984, both CocaCola and Pepsi had replaced
sugar with HFCS in their drinks.
The problem with the spread of corn syrup is that we now know that fructose
can suppress leptin, the hormone that carries the “stop now, you’re full”
message to the brain. The result? A whole group of people who just don’t
know when to stop eating. (Or, Americans, as we call them.)
The programme interspersed nuggets of information among statements of the
obvious (our consumption of food is controlled by “incredibly complex”
interactions in the brain) and repeated shots of obese people walking around
in leisure wear.
The programme suggested that obesity is encouraged by the large number of food
outlets on our streets. Yet Peretti’s interviews with scientists and experts
were repeatedly held in cafes.
As I watched, the images started to affect the incredibly complex interactions
in my brain. First I wanted a steak; and then a soft drink; then a burger;
and then perhaps a latte; and didn’t they mention tacos..?
I can’t be sure, but someone of a more sensationalist bent might think that
decisions taken behind closed editing suite doors were trying to transform me
into a food addict.