KATIE COURIC IS FED UP
FILM REVIEW: FED UP
Katie Couric Documentary Tackles Obesity Epidemic
By Teryl Warren
One of the most important films in recent memory hit theaters on May 9 and Wiles was in attendance for its star-studded Los Angeles premiere the night before. Hollywood heavyweights like Larry David, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Martin Short and Christine Lahti filed into the chic Pacific Design Center theater for a first-look at acclaimed journalist turned Executive Producer Katie Couric’s compelling documentary Fed Up.
Distributed by the same RADiUS-TWC team that brought audiences Morgan Spurlock’s powerful documentary Super Size Me a decade ago, Fed Up delves into the real reasons why people become overweight and the possible complicity of the United States government and the food industry in fueling the global obesity epidemic.
Directed by Stephanie Soechtig and co-written by Soechtig and Mark Monroe, the film, in part, follows the journey of 4 families for 2 years in their quests to both understand and combat what many scientists and nutritionists agree is the major cause of weight gain: sugar. Challenging the belief that lack of exercise, i.e. laziness, coupled with overeating are the root causes of the world’s weight crisis, Couric’s narration takes audiences on a journey from the earliest days of the fitness craze in the 1950′s to modern movements like First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Campaign” to illustrate how even the most rigorous of workouts can be completely undermined by the consumption of a diet that is high in simple carbohydrates and sugar.
In a startling demonstration to illustrate that all calories are not created equal, nutritionists contrasted the effects of eating 150 calories worth of almonds – which the human body uses as fuel – with the effects of drinking 150 calories worth of soda – which immediately turns into sugar and then to fat. Another experiment studied lab rats who were deemed addicted to, in one instance, cocaine, and in another, sugar.
The final results showed that, shockingly, sugar is 8 times more addictive than the illicit narcotic.
Beyond the science and the obvious toll that obesity takes on both children and families who are struggling with it, perhaps, the most disturbing information in the film suggests that the United States’ government and food industry giants have chosen profits over public health and, in essence, have made and kept Americans fat for decades.
In February 1977, led by then-U.S. Senator George McGovern, the McGovern Committee predicted a looming obesity epidemic in this country and issued its Dietary Goals for the United States report (also known as the McGovern Report) which, among other things, recommended that Americans reduce their daily cholesterol consumption to 300 mg per day, reduce their daily salt consumption by 50 to 85 percent to approximately 3 grams per day and reduce their daily sugar intake by 40 percent to account for about 15 percent of total energy intake.
In the wake of the report, tougher regulations on the food industry were imposed. However, the industry’s response to the stricter regulations swiftly came in the form of industry-funded studies to refute the report’s findings, slick marketing campaigns touting the “benefits” of processed “low fat” (increased sugar) products and disease-producing “diet foods” to dupe consumers into believing they’re eating healthier.
And in example from the Reagan Administration, the film cites where, by cutting $1.56 billion in federal funding for wholesome, prepared meals in schools in 1981, then-President Reagan paved the way for cheaper, sugar-filled sodas and processed junk foods to dominate school lunches in public schools nationwide. In the nearly 30 years since the McGovern Committee’s report was released, Americans have doubled their sugar intake; and out of 600,00 food items currently available in the United States, approximately 80 per cent contain added sugar. Current statistics show that approximately 51% of Americans are now overweight or obese.
As former President Bill Clinton succinctly states in the film: “The obesity epidemic is a personal tragedy that will lead to enormous complications for all of us in the future.”
So what are we gonna do about it?