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Views & Reviews Review

Obesity exposé offers slim pickings

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 02 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e4465
  1. J T Winkler, retired professor, Nutrition Policy Unit, London Metropolitan University
  1. jtw{at}

This series explains that ballooning obesity has coincided with rising sugar consumption and growing portion sizes, pushed by industry and insufficiently controlled by government. Jack Winkler agrees, but where are the potential solutions?

Food companies and governments have much to answer for in the global obesity epidemic. The three part series on BBC Two, The Men Who Made Us Fat, is the latest of many television documentaries to allege bad behaviour by both in the United Kingdom and the United States. Companies are concerned about shareholders; governments about interest groups. For both, public health is peripheral.

This latest series contains little that is new. It is tabloid television: loose with evidence, generous with accusations, and zealous with conspiracies. Consumers are presented as innocent sheep led astray by cunning marketing men, and the UK as obediently following the US down the path to perdition. Nonetheless, industry irresponsibility and government connivance are fundamental parts of the problem, and every generation needs that knowledge refreshed.

The first two episodes focus on excessive sugar consumption and increasing portion sizes as causes of obesity. The last promises to unmask spurious so called healthy products. But like most food documentaries, this one is better at exposing problems than considering solutions. This series hardly even mentions potential options and this is inexcusable. …

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