Kevin Myers: The modern child has two chins, four buttocks, a fatty liver and two brains: one in its head, the other in its belly
THE modern child has two chins, four buttocks, some pert little breasts, a fat-covered liver and two brains: one in its head, and the other in its belly. The former was supplied by nature, the latter, usually, by the child's mother, with the generous assistance of the food industry. Both brains urge the child to eat, but it is the abdominal brain which runs the show. For unlike the head-brain, it knows no conscience, no reason, no restraint: all it does is crave. The belly-brain is the ultimate greed-organ, and is perhaps mankind's most extraordinary invention over the past 50 years. Facebook, Twitter, iPads, have little power compared to the tyranny of that insatiable kraken beneath the umbilicus.
Childhood obesity arrived with feminism. I'm not saying one directly caused the other, but the "liberation" of the woman from domestic duties certainly assisted the growth of the fast-food industry, with take-aways and ready-to-eat dishes. One prime villain is the pre-sweetened "cereal", a start-the-day horror that consists almost entirely of carbohydrate and sugars. A child's body turns the whole lot to blood-sugar, which the baffled liver -- inundated with complex molecules that evolution never prepared it for -- converts to fat, which it then hurriedly passes back to the blood, like an unexploded bomb. The blood then hastily dumps this evolutionarily-unwonted surge of fat-cells wherever it can. Thus the child with that most improbable of joints -- the obese, dimpled elbow, surely, the triumph of our times.
As youngsters grew overweight, hysteria ensued. "Fat causes fatness," was the cry. Utterly untrue: the greatest alimentary lie that has ever been told. Eating fat in meat does NOT make you fat. Your body usually knows how to cope with animal fats, thanks to a million years of evolution -- but that simple truth has been lost in all the fat-hysteria. And butchers have despaired, as customers increasingly demand fat-free meats. Delicious steak with fat-marbling that guarantees flavour lies unsold on the slab. Fat on lamb chops is seen as a sign as a health-threat, when it is a guarantee of taste, and happiness, and therefore long life. And then, having bought lean, flavour-free rashers, and fat-less, tasteless beef, the mother will go into the supermarket and buy cakes, biscuits, cereals, pizzas and other vehicles for depositing fat in remote body parts, which can never be removed by diet or exercise.