The new movie “Fed Up” maintains that obesity is a public health epidemic caused by the food industry, and suggests that we demonize sugar as we do with tobacco. This bracing slap-in-the-face is currently playing at the Amherst Cinema’s 25-seat theater, and deserves a broader audience.
The documentary resembles “An Inconvenient Truth,” and was made by some of the same people. As with climate change, if we don’t reverse the stranglehold the food industry has on our diets, the future cost will be enormous. Did you know that 80 percent of processed food has added sugar? That 80 percent of schools have contracts with soda companies and 50 percent sell fast food products? That overweight teens are getting Type 2 diabetes and even strokes, which never happened 30 years ago?
“Fed Up” maintains that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, and poignantly focuses on three teens struggling with obesity. It traces the epidemic, ironically, to the push for low-fat food, prompting the industry to increase sugar use. The sugar lobby is powerful in D.C., and in nutrition labeling on packages, companies don’t have to disclose the percentages for sugar like they do for cholesterol. A World Health Organization study recommending a decline in sugar consumption was suppressed by the U.S. government.
As practitioners of simple living, we believe in cooking real food, visit restaurants seldom, grow many of our own vegetables, and buy few packaged or canned goods. But “Fed Up” still got our attention. I’m reducing my orange juice intake after realizing how much sugar it contains. Betsy looked at the label of the “High Fiber Morning O’s” she gets at Whole Foods and noticed the high sugar content.
Just as the Koch brothers, with vested interests in fossil fuels, spend millions to spread doubts about climate change, the food industry yells “Nanny state!” whenever governmental regulation threatens their profits. And just as it’s hard to convince people to lower their carbon footprints, many don’t want to give up eating food that’s convenient but unhealthy. “Fed Up” may bring a change of perception by focusing on our most vulnerable people, our children.