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Documentary 'Fed Up' decries dangers of sugar

Documentary ‘Fed Up’ looks at the link between sugar and obesity and disease, with ideas about how to bring back “real” food.

"FED UP" argues that sugar is the new tobacco, and cites hard evidence to back its claim, but evidence takes you only so far where food is concerned.

We're a people who'd rather die eating Pop Tarts than live eating broccoli. Thus far, even feeble attempts to limit our increasingly toxic load of sugar and corn syrup (nearly 20 times what it was a century ago) have met with angry denunciations of an encroaching "nanny state."

In this view, our appetite is a Cliven Bundy steer that must be free to graze the open range of Oreos and Bugles and Krimpets without government intervention - separation of Church's and state.

"Fed Up" tries to deflect the nanny-state argument, but it has its work cut out for it - it's narrated by Katie Couric, who is the closest thing America has to Mary Poppins.

To its credit, "Fed Up" does put in the work, drawing on well-informed independent sources like authors Michael Pollan and Michael Moss, and author/physicians Robert Lustig and Mark Hyman, among many others. All have studied the catastrophic effects of our high-carb, low-nutrient standard American diet.

They bang home the message: Too much sugar sickens and kills; processed food is often toxic and designed to be addictive; and billions are spent marketing these products to Americans.

Perhaps adults can see through the "Mad Men" smokescreen (though not some of the families scrutinized in the movie, who think that "lean Hot Pockets" are a healthy alternative to regular Hot Pockets), but not children, whose obesity rates have surpassed 30 percent.

One talking head says something that seems hard to argue against: "Marketing junk food to children is immoral."

The movie calls for curbs on such advertising and for restrictive measures like getting junk food out of public-school cafeterias.

Though not noted in the movie, the sugar backlash has already taken root in some places. Disney, for example, has banned junk-food ads from its kids channels. Most states have passed laws taxing sugary drinks.

Still, as the movie observes, obesity is a huge and hugely expensive problem. Diabetes and prediabetes now account for half the money spent on Medicare, a number that may hit 75 percent by the end of the next decade.

What to do about it?

"Fed Up" wants America to follow Pollan's advice: Eat a little less, eat more vegetables, cook your own food at home. (Pollan, by the way, has recently added an addendum: Eat fermented food, like pickles or sauerkraut, to aid digestion and boost immunity.)

"Fed Up" gets a bit strident at times and is tougher on Michelle Obama (who's played down criticism of processed food and upped her focus on exercise) than it needs to be.

Still, there's good information in "Fed Up," and more on the related website (, which has information and recipes for cooking healthy at home.