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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 64 - Slim chance of a waistline melt-down

FOR the western world, where obesity is widespread and increasing numbers of people are planet-shaped, a figure of dietary inspiration has emerged from a cave in Gujarat, India. He is Prahlad Jani, who, in his solitary 70s, claims to have eaten or drunk nothing for decades. He has baffled doctors in Ahmedabad who noted that the hermit consumed no food or drink for ten days and appeared unaffected by abstinence.

Will this remote, mystery man leave his mountain fastness and reveal the secrets of no-nosh nutrition? If so, it could scupper Atkins dieters and while putting millions in food production out of work, could convince the bulging masses that they had, at least, a slim chance of a melt-down of their all-too-solid flesh.

So far, the Gujarat air-gulper has provided not one crumb of discomfort for the world’s £63 billion fast food industry, a section of which is planning to hit Britain, a nation already facing terrorist threats and possible flu epidemics, with a calorific cosh in the shape of a heavyweight doughnut, so high in fat content that it has been dubbed a weapon of mass destruction.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts could be equally successful in Britain’s sweet-toothed, salivary circles. The first KK shop outside north America opened last month in Harrods and 100 are planned to tempt British tastebuds in the next five years.

With 48 varieties, varying from 200-390 calories - an average helping of Scott’s Porage Oats with skimmed milk has 181 calories and a Jacob’s chocolate Club biscuit, 113 calories - the doughnuts have been roundly condemned by Dr Ian Campbell, the chairman of the National Obesity Forum, for having no nutritional benefit and being "just another example of cynical exploitation."

Maybe so, although Catherine Collins, the chief dietician of St George’s Hospital, London, claims they are "lovely", but, in a stern ukase, warns that because of the high-fat factor, they should be limited to one a day.

All that could raise an alarming vision among British gustatory echelons of American world doughnut domination that would co-exist with Coca Cola imperialism and accelerate into Britain another American lifestyle import - obesity. I dismiss such fears because I have already seen the national waistline expanding steadily and believe that Britain no longer marches into the future but waddles.

Julius Caesar preferred fat men rather than "lean and hungry" potential conspirators. In Britain, he could hardly miss increasing numbers of citizens looking, as PG Wodehouse observed, "as if they had been poured into their clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when’." I have seen American settlements mainly populated by protein-enriched, carbohydrate-crammed people with figures resembling melted candlegrease and in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, I have watched Soviet citizens with figures like public monuments leaping into waves with hoarse, proletarian cries and the impact of depth charges.

As one who plumps for medium weight - I am shaped like a badly-rolled umbrella - I am not surprised to see the fat of the land so prominently in our midst. The nation, in fact, is on an eating binge and, according to the International Obesity Task Force, over 40 per cent of Britons will be obese within a generation unless urgent action is taken to remedy bad eating habits.

You can sense Britain as a vast human tapeworm by seeing many supermarket trolleys with enough items - including large stocks of biscuits, cakes and sweets - to stock a garrison for a week and sitting beside people in cinemas who crunch vast quantities of popcorn and slug soft drinks with the sound of cement mixers and are obviously not eating for health but for fun.

Cyril Connolly, the journalist and author, described obesity as "a mental state brought on by boredom and disappointment" - in other words, comfort eating. For many people nowadays, sheer, joyous, unrepentant greed is probably the main cause.

Already campaigns inducing people to eat healthily may be bearing fruit. McDonald’s, which reported profits in the three months ending in June, down from £300 million to £282 million, has introduced new menus that include less fat in products and more pasta and salads.

Will they make our often cheerfully-corpulent citizenry lean towards slimness? "Fat chance," say cynics. Prahlad Jani may have the answer to over-indulgence. Can we expect him to reveal it? Don’t hold your breath.

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