Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sundance Review: Fed Up - 4 stars

This is a documentary about the obesity crisis in America (and the rest of the world).  I thought I knew a lot about how processed foods are bad for you, the rising numbers of overweight and obese children, and even how in the 70s the food industry started using high fructose corn syrup in everything.

This movie revealed a lot of stuff I didn't know.  We've been told for so long to watch calories and fat content in the foods we eat, but we don't hear a lot about sugar.  I look at food labels often, and I never noticed that while the labels say how much sugar is in something, it doesn't tell you what percentage of the daily recommended allowance the food has.  That's because many foods have over 100% of the daily allowance in a single serving.

There is also a lot of interesting information about the power of the food and sugar lobbying groups, and steps the government has taken to keep people in the dark about food.  Even Michelle Obama's work to get kids in shape completely misses the important issues.

This is one of those movies that can change your life.  The numbers they give are frightening.  I've heard about how higher and higher percentages of people are developing diabetes, but where we are headed is truly terrifying.  We learn about how addictive sugar is, and the earlier a child gets conditioned, the harder it is to resist.

It reminded me of Food, Inc., another documentary that exposes the food industry and our eating habits.  It builds on the information from that movie but it does so with a real sense of urgency.  I was surprised to learn just how bad the school lunch program is in this country.  I was in elementary school in the 80s, and I remember what cafeteria food was like.  It wasn't that good, but the choices were healthy.  Then in high school, suddenly there was a Pizza Hut Express in the lunchroom.  Today, elementary school kids have the choice of Pizza Hut and Arby's in their lunchrooms. 

As far as how to eat healthy, the information in this movie isn't completely revolutionary.  It reminds us that the healthiest way to eat is to cook your food rather than eating processed food, and fruits and vegetables are best.  What this movie does is explain how we got here, and how much we have to change.  The movie makes a very convincing argument that the way junk food is advertised to kids needs to stop, and we need to look at junk food and soda the way we now look at cigarettes.  One amazing moment was when they showed a Flintstones ad from the 50s that was selling cigarettes.  It took many years for the public to recognize the dangers of smoking, and our bad eating habits are probably more dangerous because kids are the most susceptible. 

I try not to say this too often, but this is a movie everyone should see. 

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