Junk Food Experiment: A stupid, dangerous and boring TV show

Peter Andre and friends go on an overfeeding diet in the interests of ratings – I mean, science

Peter Andre is among the vaguely recognisable figures who come together to binge on carbs and trans fats for three weeks

Peter Andre is among the vaguely recognisable figures who come together to binge on carbs and trans fats for three weeks

 

We know it isn’t good for us, that it contains no nutritional value, is highly addictive and will inevitably ruin your life. Still, the Junk Food Experiment (UTV, Wednesday, 9pm) is determined to prove it again anyway, in stomach-churning detail: celebrities will do anything to be on television.

Why else would six vaguely recognisable figures come together to binge on carbs and trans fats for three weeks in order to prove a thesis that Morgan Spurlock settled long ago in Supersize Me?

If the viewer is bemused by the programme’s participants – popstar-turned-walking-Truman Show, Peter Andre; Emmerdale star-turned-Coronation-Street star, Hayley Tamaddon; daytime quiz star Shaun Wallace; former Olympian Tess Sanderson; Made in Chelsea Meerkat Hugo Taylor; and Tory MP Nadine Dorries – it’s a relief to see them equally bewildered to meet each other.

“You don’t know who I am, do you?” the hard-right conservative politician Dorries challenges Andre, before supplying her credentials: “I went to the jungle.”

Far from I’m a Celebrity now and its leafy vegetation, Dorries and her fellow contestants embark on a diet set by television doctor Michael Mosley: a weekly rotation of burgers and chips, deep-fried chicken and pizza.

This is referred to as an “extreme scientific experiment”, also known as “an overfeeding study”, as though there is some daring ambiguity about what they expect to discover. Could a solid three-meal-a-day diet of junk food make them slimmer, perhaps? Or taller? Or better at maths?

The only surprising discovery is just how willing both Mosely and his guinea pigs are to endanger themselves. (I mention here in passing that, in a previous study, Mosely was once stunned to discover he had empathy levels as low as a psychopath.)

So, Tamadan, who has Irritable Bowel Syndrome, develops severely irritated bowels; Wallace, whose parents had diabetes, is by the end borderline pre-diabetic; and Sanderson, a former athlete in her 60s, has such a high spike in blood pressure that within two weeks she is at serious risk of a stroke.

“This is such a stupid idea,” says one binger. “I’m beginning to worry that I’m going to die.” I know, right? But those words belong to Dr Mosely himself, attacking a multi-stack burger for some other test of dubious scientific merit.

If it’s stupid for him and actually dangerous for the subjects, is their ridiculous undertaking any good for us?

The more insincere among the participants talk about raising awareness: This is “a selfless act” says Taylor, a whippet-thin self-preener who abandons the show a few days in. Those hungrier for exposure may believe that expanding their waistlines for our delectation only leaves more of them to love.

But by the end of the experiment, following various objections from more conscientious health-workers, only three participants remain, each of them as bloated, unfocused and ungainly as the programme itself.

“Wow,” concludes Mosely, presumably still digesting the remnants of his Hippocratic Oath, “what the junk food diet has done in a short period of time is wreck their bodies.”

No shit, Spurlock! You may have also found the antidote to credibility.

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