Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Blame Sugar

Magazine article The Spectator

Don't Blame Sugar

Article excerpt

If there is one characteristic that accounts for the deep unattractiveness of the modern British, it is their lack of self-control.

It is not merely that they lack such self-control as they scream their obscenities in the street, eat everywhere they go, and leave litter behind them: it is that they are actively opposed to self-control on grounds of health and safety. They are convinced that self-control is the enemy of self-expression, without which their existences would be poisoned as if by an unopened abscess.

Therefore the notion, increasingly propounded in the press and elsewhere, that sugar is an addictive substance will be music to their ears - or rather junk food to their stomachs. Not only is self-control bad for you, it has been proved (by science) to be impossible. Further good news is that fatness is genetic. To adapt Blake slightly:

Every night and every morn Some to obesity are born.

Never has Man's eternal urge to excuse himself received so much authoritative support.

But as we dispense with these comforting illusions, we must be careful not to be dishonest ourselves. Obesity is a problem; and while it is increasing elsewhere, for example in France, the British are now among the fattest people on earth. It is particularly a problem in the poorer half of the country, whose economy is like that of the Soviet Union with takeaway pizza. Hospitals now have to have special scales and operating tables to deal with patients twice as big as their parents' generation. The rich are different; they not only have more money but are slimmer - though they, too, are growing fatter. It is true also that there are genetic predispositions to fatness and to Type II diabetes. Likewise that, ever since the Nixon administration's directive that the prepared-food industry should use less fat in its products for the sake of our health, the sugar content of such food has been rising and huge subsidies have been paid to the farmers of the United States in effect to produce cheap fructose, the nutritionists' current bete noire.

But none of this abrogates each person's responsibility (and ability) to control himself. After all, not everyone in even the most depressed area is fat, and while you can lead a single mother to Coca-Cola, you can't make her drink. …

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