The other night I was out with some friends and one of them commented on obesity and how “slothful” people had become, how it was a blight on communities and destroying the lives of people young and old. This developed into a discussion on the economics of food and the lack of exercise in school. Fed Up, directed by tonight’s guest Stephanie Soechtig, shows us that the global obesity epidemic actually stems from our very human addiction to a simple substance: sugar.
“Oh but it’s fat that makes you fat!”
“If you exercise, you’ll lose weight–it’s calories in and calories out.”
These myths are debunked in Fed Up, produced by Katie Couric (who also narrates the film) and Laurie David. It’s an excoriating look at sugar and the food industry, one that will make you rethink how and what you eat. There’s sugar added in just about everything (80% of the 600,000 food items in America), even jarred spaghetti sauce. Yes, yes, in The Godfather Clemenza tells Michael Corleone that the secret to good tomato sauce is adding a little sugar, but processed foods add more than Clemenza’s pinch, and even a small bit of his secret ingredient adds up: The average American consumes over 19 teaspoons of sugar a day–almost 5x the recommended daily allowance of sugar–which works out to three pounds a week.
Calories in, calories out? It can take an hour and a half of exercise to work off that cookie. And there are different kinds of calories you’re trying to work off in spin class. The 160 calories in almonds include fiber and protein. We all know what protein does–and the fiber, well it slows the absorption of nutrients into the body. But the 160 calories in a can of soda is pure sugar–no fiber. Wham! That sugar zips through the liver up to the brain where it triggers addictive responses (rats prefer sugar water to cocaine, go figure!) and over to the pancreas where it gets converted to insulin. Extra insulin gets stored as fat–and keeps the body thinking it’s hungry.
And those 15 extra teaspoons of sugar a day in processed, pre-made food? Also stored as fat. Extra sugar puts a burden on the liver and on the pancreas, the pink organ, part of both endocrine and digestive systems, which is responsible for converting sugars into insulin. Diabetes, which is skyrocketing worldwide, is a disruption of pancreatic function. And pancreatic cancer rates are also increasing–and it is fatal, usually undetectable until late stage 3 or into stage 4. (Pancreatic cancer is associated with the pancreas’ digestive function–enzymes are released in response to distension and/or food). People who think they are hungry, whose brains are tricked into feeling hungry, eat more…
So what about sugar substitutes? Artificial sweeteners trick the brain and body–and keep you hungry and craving sugar. And eating more.
Fed Up is jammed with hard facts–presented with charming graphics–and interviews with experts (including a genius moment with the scientist funded by Coca-Cola and Pepsi to scientifically justify that sugary drinks aren’t bad for us (wow, does he get pwned!), but what really resonates — the kids who struggle with their tragic weight. A 220 lb, 12 year old girl; boys teetering towards 300 lbs, toddlers almost twice the traditional weight. These children are always hungry, and their parents struggle to find healthier foods the kids will eat.
He likes Hot Pockets, so I buy low-fat Hot Pockets
explains one mother. But as it’s explained, low-fat equals not-great taste, so extra sugar (sucrose, maltose, high fructose corn syrup) is added to low-fat foods. And this is spawning a global epidemic. If obesity was polio, would we have figured out a cure by now? Or is the food industry sacrificing global health for their own profits? We’ve reached a point now where globally more people are dying from obesity-related diseases than from starvation.
So what are the solutions? For those of us who don’t have kids, who have the time to cook from scratch–the answer is simple: Remove added sugar from our diets. For others, it’s not so easy. Can added sugar be controlled and regulated–and how will people whose bodies have been addicted to sugar, react?
Fed Up is a must for anyone concerned about the future of children, of nutrition, of health care, and the economy–locally and globally. It’s shocking and eye-opening. Fed Up opened May 9, 2014 and is in theaters across the country.