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The Men Who Made Us Thin

Thu Aug 22, 9-10pm, BBC2

Episode three
Jacques Peretti continues his series about the diet industry with a look at the definition of a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) and how its reclassification offered a huge opportunity for the food, medical and drugs industries to make a killing.

When Professor Philip James, with more than £1m of funding from drugs companies, determined that a BMI of 27 was no longer healthy and set 25 as the new threshold, 29 million Americans immediately became classed as overweight. James is a good, concise contributor: categorical in his denial of companies having any agenda, even as their possible consumer base expanded by millions overnight.

From here, Peretti constructs a fascinating doc that never flags, keeping our interest by including everything from an interview with photographers’ agent Danny Hayward, who recalls a staged campaign with Jade Goody that spanned six months of yo-yo weight loss issues, to Michael in Malmo, trialling a new device enabling him to eat whatever he wants, chew it very thoroughly, then disgorge some 30 percent of it immediately via a tube he attaches to his stomach… Think bulimia but from a different body part. Though probably best not to think about it too much.



This has been an excellent series. More than anything Jacques Peretti has exposed our capitalist system at its absolute lowest ; food companies and 'weight loss' companies which are prepared to kill people by positively encouraging obesity - like the tobacco industry before it encouraged lung cancer. Research is suppressed and manipulated and cleverly done so that we feel bad about ourselves as a society. The most sinister picture was of the Nestle 'treats boat' going down the Amazon into hitherto untapped 'markets'. Turns your stomach.

Laura Cook

Having covered the reasons why we think we're fat in the previous episodes, this time Peretti looks into surgery including a stomach-squeezing device to shrink the stomach and a tube you attach to a hole in the belly to empty the contents of your meal three times a day. The main concern here is that these techniques are not for the morbidly obese, but for those of us who want to lose a few pounds as by medical definition are 'overweight'. Peretti's documentary is an entertaining education on the sociology behind dieting and our perception of what defines us as overweight. For anyone obsessed with diets, the documentary is a must-watch as it reveals the fascinating truth behind how our minds have been controlled to think in this way.

Fiona Hewlett

It's absolutely no coincidence that I have been eating during every episode of Jacques Peretti’s marvellous series, as if somehow, something magical will happen to the calories I am eating as my brain is getting schooled in all the reasons that I am apparently not to blame for being a porker. It appears that the Men Who Made Us Thin are in fact the shadowy figures I can vent my frustration towards. Oh, and society of course. Not forgetting my mother. This has been an utterly fascinating journey, but it’s made me rather angry, truth be told. Yes, we as adults do make our own decisions when it comes to what we eat, but perhaps a little less 24 hours a day super-sized multi-pack fast-food convenience wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Imagine never having got into the frankly disgusting habit of consuming everything we want to, just because we can….