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Obesity

The TV doctor with a junk-food problem

Chris and Xand van Tulleken. Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

The van Tulleken brothers are identical twins and TV doctors. Xand is obese and Chris isn’t. Their new podcast series, A Thorough Examination: Addicted to Food, investigates why. “Xand, because of his weight, is likely to die a long time before me, which is something so awful, it’s hard to imagine,” says Chris. Last year both caught Covid, but Xand developed a heart condition – he was hospitalised four times and his heart stopped.

Since the 1950s obesity in the British population has gone from a rarity to an epidemic. Chris blames the rise of ultra-processed foods such as chicken nuggets, frozen pizza – “basically anything wrapped in plastic with an ingredient that you don’t find in a domestic kitchen”. In an experiment at University College London in episode four, obesity expert Dr Janine Makaronidis explains that ultra-processed foods suppress a hormone in the gut that makes you feel full, while pumping up hormones that tell your brain you’re still hungry.

It’s a surprisingly entertaining and emotional series of myth-busting interviews with expert neurologists, chemists and geneticists, leaning on a relatable family story to explain how today’s dietary environment has changed our bodies and our brains.

Listen to the podcast series here.