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Arts and Entertainment

Katie Couric Gives Us A Wake Up Call On The Evils Of Sugar In 'Fed Up'

'Fed Up' (Photo courtesy of RADiUS/TWC)
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In the same spirit as documentaries like Supersize Me or Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, the Katie Couric-narrated Fed Up gives us a wake up call on obesity—but this time aims to start a revolution against sugar.

Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, Fed Up, has Couric at the helm interviewing her A-list guests; they're former politicians, activists and nutritionists like former President Bill Clinton, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and activist Michael Pollan. It's a slick production that also relies on unnerving statistics, cartoons and personal stories from obese children to paint a picture of just how far we've gone off the deep end with sugar.

Although we've been preached to before about the evils of sugar, the documentary tries to make the point that blaming obesity on genetics or not exercising regularly isn't enough. Some questions they ask include "Why doesn't sugar get a daily intake requirement label on food?" or "How is a fruit calorie not the same as a sugar calorie?" In order for low-fat options (that food makers have pitched as "healthy") to taste good, the food industry has packed them full of sugar. Again, although these facts aren't new or revelatory, it makes for a compelling argument when grouped together with the politics hidden behind it. Fed Up argues that the food industry and government are in cahoots in pushing sugar into the diets of unsuspecting Americans, who are misled by some aggressive marketing.

Children just so happen to be one of the main advertising targets for the food industry. Soechtig has a group of personable children tell heartbreaking stories about their weight struggles through diary-like confessionals. Some exercise regularly, some are addicted to food and some try to change their diets. One mother buys her obese son lean Hot Pockets thinking that it's healthier for him. These stories tug at the heart-strings. Although these narratives add to the overall discussion on the problem of obesity, this documentary style at times toes the line with human interest stories you might catch at night on TV.

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What offsets this, though, are alarming figures the documentary gives. Most surprising is that there were no cases of type 2 diabetes among adolescents between the ages of 8 and 19 in 1980; however, in 2010, the U.S. was faced with 57,638 cases. Something has gone wrong in the last 30 years.

Fed Up digs into the question: "How did we get here?" Well, we have government hands in the pockets of sugar industry and fast food kings, the documentary says. Former President Ronald Reagan cut $1.46 billion dollars out from the child nutrition budget, which caused a movement for fast food companies to prey on schools who needed quick, cheap and easy meals to prepare for students. Although fruit and vegetable requirements have doubled for students, tomato paste and potatoes are counted as vegetables, which makes pizza and french fries staples in schools. Although Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program is well-intentioned in tackling obesity with exercise programs, Fed Up criticizes that it doesn't target the food our children are eating.

This documentary addresses the problems within our government, but acts more as a rally cry to urge viewers into making a change—to alter our diets and contact Congress to change the status quo. Some of the ways they suggest change teeters on the naive; at one point, Couric suggests that for every celebrity (like Beyoncé or Taylor Swift) who makes an endorsement on a soda drink, they must be required to make an juxtaposing ad on a fruit or vegetable. But still, the message behind the documentary is an important one and very relevant to our current state of our nation.

We have to wonder, though, if everyone will actually be incised to make a difference after watching Fed Up. If anything, it'll put a nagging voice in the back of your head as you make your choices at the supermarket—and that's a start.

Fed Up is now playing at The Landmark in West L.A.

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