In my never ending quest to learn about food, nutrition, food issues etc, I watch a lot of food based documentary type programs. I thought I’d start reviewing/discussing some of them as I watch or rewatch them.
Fed Up is the most recent one that I know of and I scooped it right up when it came across my desk at the library. Fed Up takes on the the issue of obesity in our country and covers and immense amount of information in doing so. The movie starts out by asking how obesity can still be a worldwide epidemic when the marketplace is flooded with low fat, low sugar, reduced calorie options and suggests that perhaps that approach to weight lost is just dead wrong. I was on board with this train of thought right away.
There were a lot of interesting statistics/facts presented throughout.
~ Between 1980 and 2000, gym memberships and obesity rates have doubled
~ In 1980, there were 0 cases of type 2 diabetes in adolescents (it used to be known as adult onset diabetes), in 2010 there were 57,638 known cases of type 2 diabetes in adolescents
~ Obesity rates are up worldwide
~Americans doubled their daily intake of sugar between 1977-2000
~ Natural sugars present in fruit are balanced by the Fiber of whole fruit, which is lost when fruit is processed into juice.
~ Recommended daily allowance of added sugars is 6-9 tsp. This can easily be surpassed in a breakfast of reduced sugar cereal and a glass of juice.
~In an experiment, 43 cocaine addicted rats were offered sugar water or cocaine over a period of 15 days. At the end of the 15 days, 40 of the 43 rats chose sugar water over cocaine.
~ Infant formulas, especially lactose free varieties, substitute sucrose and are thought to cause an early addiction to sugar
~At the current rate of growth, 95% of Americans will be overweight or obese in 20 years and 1/3 will have diabetes by 2050
~75% of our healthcare costs go to the treatment and maintenance of metabolic diseases
~ This is the first generation that has a shorter expected life span than their parents.
The film also covers a lot of the legal and legislative history of nutrition in the food industry. This was one of the most interesting parts to me because I was familiar with a lot of the other information they provided.
~In 1862, the USDA originated to help farmers thrive. After the Mcgovern Report, the goal of the USDA shifted more towards promoting the food industry. The food industry spends a lot of money lobbying for support and the focus has moved away from encouraging healthy choices from farms and farmers to promoting the American industry
~ In 1946, President Truman signed the School Lunch Act to provide healthy and nutritionally complete lunches to school children after military recruits were being rejected due to poor nutrition
~ In 1977, The McGovern report was released stating there was a link between heart disease and diet and that obesity was the #1 form of malnutrition. The egg, sugar, dairy and beef industries rejected the report and joined to demand a rewrite. The official report changed from recommending a reduced intake of these products to encouraging people to buy lower fat products. This was the birth of the low fat industry.
~The first attempts to regulate marketing to children were seen after the McGovern report in 1977. Big Food won that battle.
~ In 1981, President Reagan cut $1.46 Billion out of the Child Nutrition Budget in an effort to “reduce government involvement”. Many schools got rid of their cooking equipment and switched to heat and serve menu items to save money and many of our schools still do it this way.
~ In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) released TRS-916, claiming that sugar was the leading cause of chronic metabolic disease and obesity. The report recommended that we restrict our sugar intake to less than 10% of our daily caloric intake. The WHO was asked by the Bush administration to stop the report because it was too hard on the food industry. The Bush administration told the WHO that we would withhold $600 million in funding if the report was released. The food industry recommends no more than 25% daily calories from sugar, which is 2.5 times the amount recommended by the scientists at the WHO. Today, there is no % of daily value for sugar on food labels.
~In 2010, President Obama signed a bill to allow the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act which authorized the ADA to come up with new standards to make school lunches healthier. There was another backlash from the food industry and provisions were made. In 2012, a revised regulation was released by the USDA. They increased the school lunch budget for the first time in 30 yrs- by $0.06. The regulations put a calorie limit and doubled the amount of fruits and vegetables in the school lunch program. Due to provisions demanded by the food industry, pizza, ketchup and french fries are still considered vegetables in the school lunch program.
~ The Obama Administration started strong in their efforts to fight childhood obesity by addressing issues of both diet and exercise. The food industry got scared and offered to help. They have the option to change the recipe, offer a new product or offer portion sized products in the marketplace. When asked if any of the original products were being pulled, the spokesperson avoided the question. Michelle Obama has stressed the move more aspect of her original plan more since partnering with the food industry.
Every time the government has tried to regulate aspects of food and nutrition, the food industry strikes back questioning the role of government in what we eat. While I do believe that the responsibility ultimately comes down to parents and eventually personal choice, the industry needs to takes responsibility for their role in exploiting children’s vulnerabilities. Private profit and special interest groups have been put above public health concerns.
The most powerful parts of the film were the personal testimonies. There were several adolescents and their families that were profiled, interviewed and followed. It was truly shocking to see how little people really know about nutrition. These families were trying to do better for their children but they really just did not know what they were doing. The families were buying lean pockets instead of hot pockets or buying reduced fat versions of their favorite crackers, without considering the calories or sugar content, not to mention the questionable ingredients in many of the items. Even with an increase in activity level, the weight of these children stayed pretty much the same. Unless it is a real interest of yours and you actively seek out the information, it is easy to fall victim to the advertising magic of the food industry.
The film presents the Tobacco Industry as a public health success story. The industry fought government involvement and regulation for 50+ yrs before smoking ads were removed from public spaces, regulations were set on where people could smoke and taxes were imposed. There has been a 50% decrease in high school smokers in the last 20 yrs. They are hoping that with continued efforts, we can see the same results with the regulation of our food industry.
Progress is already being made in some areas. People like Jamie Oliver and many others are going into schools and communities and teaching them about real food and healthy cooking. There are efforts to bring fresh food to food deserts. By focusing on real food prepared at home, you don’t have to worry about things like added sugar.
I think this film presents a lot of information and could be a little overwhelming to someone who is knew to learning about all of this, but I think it is definitely a great place to start nonetheless. There is a lot of real life information that you could use on your next trip to the grocery store. Personally, I have mixed feeling on government regulation of our food. I think it is a personal responsibility, but it is hard for people to make good choices when the government is subsidizing and promoting such unhealthy products. People don’t even know that they don’t know better because the messages they receive in the advertising that is everywhere are that Lean Pockets are a healthy choice or that because something contains whole grains it is healthy for you. I think it is a very complicated issue that involves parents, schools, the government, doctors, advertising, availability, education and awareness. The most powerful tool in fighting this epidemic is educating people about what healthy eating really is and what is hidden in so many of the foods that you buy off the grocery store shelves. Many people would make better choices for their families and selves if they knew how to.
Find out more about the film and the issues presented in it at fedupmovie.com
Have you seen the film? Please share your thoughts.