Streams

"Fed Up" Shows That Sugar Makes People Fat and Sick

Friday, May 09, 2014

Sugar is a major culprit in why we gain weight. Sugar is a major culprit in why we gain weight. (From the documentary "Fed Up"/Courtesy of the filmmaker)

Producer Laurie David talks about the documentary “Fed Up,” which upends the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it. The film unearths the dirty little secret your favorite brands and restaurants don’t want you to know—far more of us get sick from what we eat than anyone ever realized and this is in largely due to added sugar in 80 percent of items sold in grocery stores. “Fed Up” opens May 9 at the Angelika.

“Exercise is essential for good health. But we can’t exercise our way out of the obesity epidemic. And if you just look at one small stat from the movie, which is a child who drinks one soda a day would have to be on a bicycle for an hour and 15 minutes to get rid of that soda,” Laurie David said. “There really aren’t enough hours in the day to exercise this food off.”

We should only be eating about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar a day, “But most of us are consuming about 22 teaspoons a day, which is an incredible amount of sugar. But the problem is, they’re not even aware they’re consuming it,” she said. “You don’t necessarily know you’re consuming sugar when you’re using store-bought salad dressing, or store-bought tomato sauce, or healthy granola bars. It’s added to all these foods.”

Although many people think that cutting down on fat will lead to weight loss, fat is not the problem—sugar is what causes people to gain weight. When the food industry created low-fat and nonfat versions of foods, they added sugar to those products to make up for the flavor lost when fat was removed. “Fed Up” shows how powerful food companies are and how they’ve taken advantage of the confusion about what constitutes a healthy diet. It also looks at the role advertising and marketing has worked to exacerbate the problems of obesity. “It’s outrageous that we allow these companies to market food that we know is unhealthy to children,” she said.

Read labels and pay attention to the sugar content in foods and drinks. If you want to cut out added sugar and improve your diet and health, avoid processed foods as much as possible. As Michael Pollan recommends in Food Rules: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pollan also has this nugget of advice: “If it’s a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.”

Watch the trailer

Guests:

Laurie David

Comments [43]

Kate from Los Angeles

Why is there no mention in this movie about the pervasiveness of GMO's throughout our food supply and how that is degrading the American people's health? Of course, sugar is bad in large quantities, but most of the sugar being consumed in processed foods is derived from GMO sugar beets. People seem to have no idea of what they're consuming and are not questioning what's in their food, drink, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, over the counter medicines, clothing (GMO cotton/synthetic petrochemicals), etc. We need to question everything and know what we're consuming and it's effect on us. Don't listen to the so-called experts in the media or governmental agencies who would lie to us as they're controlled by big business interests and are bought off, just like our politicians.

May. 17 2014 07:01 PM
John Myers

If you want your kids to eat more vegetables, cook them in butter. Don't fear the fat.

May. 14 2014 06:47 PM
Allison from FYI

2 teaspoons = 10 grams

May. 14 2014 12:07 PM
stan chaz from Brooklandia

When I look at my supermarket's weekly circular,
90% of what I find  I find is sugar-based
and highly processed "foods".
The "food" industry is killing us.
And then Big Pharma,
hand in hand with the food industry,
is  making big bucks "treating"
the symptoms with their high-priced drugs,
and resultant side-effects, for which we "need" more drugs.
That scenario --in and of itself--
is enough to make you sick.
And then .....they have the NERVE to lobby,
with tons of money,
in trying to prevent such things
as the honest and open labeling of GMO foods!
And politicians with ideologic blinders,
such as Rand Paul, have the GALL
to say that we should leave businesses alone,
and let them run amok, with no regulations,
and let them do what they want to us.
What fools these politicians be....

May. 14 2014 03:20 AM
Lou Sid from NYC

Cooking your own real food seems foreign, unAmerican. Junk food is making us sick but it's our food, it's entrepreneurial, a business for profits. By eating it we give tribute to the ideology supporting its production.

Kids will group socially around the shared loyalty to junk food. My mother would give me a school lunch of an eggplant sandwich on crusty bead and the kids near me would say, "What the hell is that?" and move away from me.

Sense doesn't trump culture. Pizza, likely the most popular food, is (mostly) completely corrupted in America. Its production is industrialized and then fitted into the eat on your feet and run (city), or eat it in your car (suburbia) quick and easy method of ingestion.

I'm sickened by these practices but I won't allow them to make me sick. I won't allow a dime of my money to go to the mendacious, manipulative, junk food industry. As brooklynmom78 said, the nanny state limiting choice is bad, but the apparent freedom to choose among the vast variety of junk food is one of the main factors why the propaganda promoting it works.

May. 09 2014 05:48 PM
Beth Battinelli from Berkeley Heights

While I was looking for information about "Fed Up" at the Angelika Film Center, a Yelp Ad for a local AMC Dine-In Theater bullied its way into the middle of my screen. Ironic.

May. 09 2014 02:21 PM
tom LI

Amy from Manhattan, how come adults can't resist this so called high powered marketing? I have yet to ever see a commercial and then buy the product. No matter what it is! When I shop, I choose what to buy based on my needs, be it food or cleaning product, etc. I simply will never understand this American mentality that is so easily seduced by commercials. And I'm a full blooded AAmerican male.

To all;
Choose to be led around by the nose, or not. Look at the people around you in a supermarket, the obese will all be using coupons and buying items just because of the coupon. That's what a nonthinking, careless, ignorant person does.

I diasgreewith the guest on one point. Product placement is and should be meaningless to an adult. I could reach across a hundred different junk products to get to the good food, and I still would not pick up the junk instead. Its like feces in my way of something good.

Leonard, if your eating properly, as you claim, and gaining weight, it because you NEED to exercise, move more. Your metabolism has stalled out....

May. 09 2014 01:05 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Bebe, that goes for simple carbs, but not complex carbs, like whole grains & foods made w/them.

May. 09 2014 12:52 PM
RosieNY from NY

Could this movie be made available via the Internet,even if we have to pay for it, please? I would want my kids and my husband to watch it but there is no way I am going to be able to drag them to the Angelika. On the other hand, If I were going to be "casually" watching it at home one day, very likely they will join me.

May. 09 2014 12:42 PM
jm

I make most of my meals, and have a fairly varied and healthy menu. That said, I have a specific craving for a small amount of sugar immediately after a meal. It "seals" the meal, and prevents me from snacking later (especially with more sugary foods).

My other trick for healthy eating seems counterintuitive; I make an effort to keep different categories of junk foods on hand. First, if you're healthy in your approach to eating, a very limited amount of junk food will satisfy a craving. Second, its important to target the specific craving, or you'll eat more of the "incorrect" junk food to compensate.

May. 09 2014 12:41 PM

I eat sweet chocolate treats made with unsweetened chocolate (3 grams carb per serving) using Splenda and with zero carb heavy cream all day long with no weight gain. So I have sweets almost all day long but because it's close to zero carbs and no sugar, I gain no weight. I haven't bought a chocolate bar or chocolate ice cream in years.

May. 09 2014 12:40 PM

Anyone interested in their health should read Atkins for Life. Nothing this guest said was new info. As a Cardiologist, he can speak about the science that this guest admitted she couldnt.

May. 09 2014 12:39 PM
Bebe from Queens

Leonard, It's not just soda, added sugar and processed foods. Cut out the carbs: potatoes, rice, corn, bread and pasta -- and watch your weight decrease and stabilize.

May. 09 2014 12:37 PM
Sheila from Manhattan

The label on my salad dressing says there are 6 grams of sugar per service. How many grams make up a teaspoon?

May. 09 2014 12:37 PM
Sherery from UWS

Price wise you would be surprised how the price of soda competes with water.

May. 09 2014 12:35 PM
juljo

To be clear, sugar consumption is not leading to TYPE 1 diabetes. It is leading to TYPE 2.

If you are TYPE 1 and having a low blood sugar - have the juice.

May. 09 2014 12:35 PM
juljo

To be clear, sugar consumption is not leading to TYPE 1 diabetes. It is leading to TYPE 2.

If you are TYPE 1 and having a low blood sugar - have the juice.

May. 09 2014 12:35 PM
jm

Some claim that corporations should be "free" to market to children, and that it's parents' responsibility to shield/educate their kids. I'm sure they would also be perfectly ok with Hustler Magazine promoting their product with giant billboards in direct view of every home.

May. 09 2014 12:34 PM
jf

The meat in cafeterias is often spoiled

May. 09 2014 12:33 PM
jf from dystopia

Cherry tree growers get visited by SWAT teams for telling people about the health benefits of cherries without FDA approval.

May. 09 2014 12:32 PM
brooklynmom78 from Park Slope

there is a reason why high school students always get the pizza. In my high school cafeteria, all of the healthy sandwiches had green meat and the salads were wilted. Cafeteria food always has a reputation for not being that good, so the rare times I ate in the caff, I ALSO got the pizza, simply because it was the only thing palatable on the menu. In my opinion, schools could contract out with places like subway to sell healthier food to students. Then the food would be good, and it removes the responsibility of the school to get into the cooking industry. I don't believe in nanny states. The fact of the matter is that the ultimate choice belongs to the individual. Education and making sure smaller portion sizes are available is great, Limiting people's choice is NOT.

May. 09 2014 12:31 PM
brooklynmom78 from Park Slope

there is a reason why high school students always get the pizza. In my high school cafeteria, all of the healthy sandwiches had green meat and the salads were wilted. Cafeteria food always has a reputation for not being that good, so the rare times I ate in the caff, I ALSO got the pizza, simply because it was the only thing palatable on the menu. In my opinion, schools could contract out with places like subway to sell healthier food to students. Then the food would be good, and it removes the responsibility of the school to get into the cooking industry. I don't believe in nanny states. The fact of the matter is that the ultimate choice belongs to the individual. Education and making sure smaller portion sizes are available is great, Limiting people's choice is NOT.

May. 09 2014 12:31 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Leonard said it right in his intro: we were *told* to eat less fat. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (cspinet.org) says Americans didn't actually reduce the fat in our diets.

I like the part where the food industry wants us to think it's people's own failure when they don't have the willpower to resist their high-powered ad campaigns & other influence & the choices they make available. "Eat this! You'll love it! You can't stop at one!"--& then it's your fault that you gain weight?

It does bother me that many of Ms. David's answers are, "I don't know the science--go see the movie." Either there should have been a 2nd guest who does know the science or she should have boned up on it herself. Could this be followed up w/a "Please Explain" segment?

May. 09 2014 12:29 PM
jf from reality

Diabetes and heart disease are the biggest killers. and they are feeding these diseases to the children more effectively than a concentration camp gassing. THERE ARE EASY WAYS TO MAKE GOURMET VEGETABLE DISHES CHEAPLY. PESTO. SPINACH PESTO, BASIL PESTO, BROCCOLLI, CAULIFLOWER, VEGETABLES CAN BE SO MUCH TASTIER THAN MEAT. cooked right. roasted. onions...

May. 09 2014 12:28 PM

@abby from si - good job. this guest is behind the 8 ball. She forgets that there has been a war on sugar since The New Diet Revolution By Dr. Atkins came out in late 60's/70's

May. 09 2014 12:27 PM

It's not just climate change that has its deniers. I know people who believe that obesity is a discriminatory diagnosis that one day will be proven not to exist, just as homosexuality was at one time labeled as a psychological disorder.

Joseph

May. 09 2014 12:27 PM

MICHAEL POLLAN SAID WHAT DR. ATKINS SAID 20 years BEFORE MICHAEL POLLAN!!

May. 09 2014 12:26 PM
abby from si

the comment by the guest that the body processes ALL sugars the same way is wrong: from the NY Times article "Gray Matter: The Brain: Our Food-Traffic Controller"
... "Glucose is a critical energy source for our body, particularly the brain. Even tiny changes in blood glucose can be detected by specialized glucose-sensing nerve cells in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus’s exquisite sensitivity to glucose is especially important because the brain requires a continuous supply of glucose to meet its high-energy needs.

Fructose, a close relative of glucose, molecularly speaking, has the same number of calories but is sweeter than its cousin. Unlike glucose, though, fructose is almost entirely removed from the blood by the liver. Thus, very little of it actually reaches the brain."

via link>> http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/opinion/sunday/the-brain-our-food-traffic-controller.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry937%23%2Fthe%2520brain%3Aour%2520food%2520traffic%2520controller&_r=0

May. 09 2014 12:26 PM

Jamie Oliver has done more than Caty Couric.

May. 09 2014 12:24 PM

Does Leonard even read comments anymore? This is outrageous that Dr. Atkins name isn't coming up.

May. 09 2014 12:23 PM

Caty Couric? Dr. Atkins fought the entire medical establishment with the information this film now promotes.

May. 09 2014 12:22 PM
Bebe from Queens

FINALLY! Atkins, Paleo and Weston A. Price folks have been talking about this for years. It's time that the weight loss strategy of "eat less/exercise more" is exposed for the cruel and false paradigm it is. I heard Leonard mention science journalist Gary Taubes' being interviewed in the film. Few people have done more than Taubes to bring the full story (historical, political, economic as well as scientific and medical) to light.

Although it sounds like this film is essentially an expose on sugar, I hope it also makes clear that dietary fat is not the enemy.

I look forward to seeing it.

May. 09 2014 12:22 PM
oscar from ny

Every freaking day I hear all these presumptions assumations..experts about this and that the past the future dinosaurs monkeys evilution how the universe picks one and the other...we are born who we are born ...I'm skinny born skinny and no matter how much I eat I can only gain what my body..same thing with fat ppl that's what their genetic code understands..if you go out of your way to change yourself you will have do some drastic and you will see changes in other parts of your life so be careful..

May. 09 2014 12:21 PM
Nathan W

Thought fructose (as in high fructose corn syrup) was in fact metabolized differently? I've read of an increase in what is now called nonalcoholic fatty liver syndrome.

May. 09 2014 12:20 PM

Duh! I've been on the so-called "Atkins Diet" since 1997 and at age 67 can still fit into clothes, including some dress pants, I've had for 40 years. And I was a "husky" kid back in the '50s. Sugar is from the devil, like tobacco, alcohol and most drugs. And with some good substitutes like Splenda and Stevia it can easily be dispensed with without depriving your "sweet tooth." I eat unsweetened chocolate with Splenda all day long with no weight gain.

And exercise is for general good health but won't do a thing for controlling weight if you ingest too many carbs especially sugar.

May. 09 2014 12:18 PM

Dr. Atkins said in order to eat healthy one must buy the stuff in the outer edges of the supermarket (produce, meat, dairy) and that everything within the aisles is dangerous.

May. 09 2014 12:14 PM
Mary from Connecticut

Also not disclosed is added sugar vs natural, right? Beets probably have a lot of sugar but if it's not added, that's also probably a difference in how they're metabolized. Could the guest address this?

May. 09 2014 12:14 PM
Joel Schwalb from Nyack

For those of us who don't live in NYC, where can we see the film? Will it be available on Netflix?

May. 09 2014 12:14 PM

Please Leonard, the only 2 comments on your page praise Dr. Atkins. Can you please ask your guess to discuss this pioneer of public health?

May. 09 2014 12:13 PM
Joel Schwalb from Nyack

For those of us who don't live in NYC, where can we see the film? Will it be available on Netflix?

May. 09 2014 12:13 PM
Zach from Brooklyn NY

Saying that it takes 'X' amount of time to burn 'X' amount of calories is VERY misleading. Your body is burning that amount of calories in that alotted exercise time, but it does NOT account for the calories burned after the workout during recovery. It also does not take into account the fact that the muscle that is being created, burns more calories than the fat it replaces.

May. 09 2014 12:12 PM

Dr. Atkins was the leading proponent that sugar, especially refined sugar is very bad for us. The man went against the AMA especially and was targeted as a threat to public health, yet in the past 30 years, most of the things he spoke about are becoming common knowledge. Refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, all were attacked by Dr. Atkins.

May. 09 2014 12:09 PM

Duh! I've been on the so-called "Atkins Diet" since 1997 and at age 67 can still fit into clothes, including some dress pants, I've had for 40 years. And I was a "husky" kid back in the '50s. Sugar is from the devil, like tobacco, alcohol and most drugs. And with some good substitutes like Splenda and Stevia it can easily be dispensed with without depriving your "sweet tooth." I eat unsweetened chocolate with Splenda all day long with no weight gain.

And exercise is for general good health but won't do a thing for controlling weight if you ingest too many carbs especially sugar.

May. 09 2014 12:08 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.