Everything we’ve been told about obesity is wrong

For decades the causes of obesity have been attributed to a lack of will power. In the documentary film, “Fed Up,” journalist Katie Couric, Laurie David and director Stephanie Soechtig explore evidence that everything we’ve been told is wrong.

A scene from the documentary "Fed Up," discusses the causes of obesity. (Credit: The Wrap)

A scene from the documentary “Fed Up,” discusses the causes of obesity. (Credit: The Wrap)

Despite dietary guidelines, the effects of obesity, primarily diabetes, have skyrocketed. What’s frightening is that the number of overweight children has been increasing drastically. Obese children are especially at risk for diseases like diabetes.

American diet under fire

Laurie David — who produced the 2006 climate change exposé, An Inconvenient Truth — has turned her attention to the standard American diet and its effects on obesity in her new film, Fed Up, which opened in theaters May 9, 2014. Along with director Stephanie Soechtig and narrator Katie Couric, David makes a case that the food industry has placed profits over people.

Mary MacVean covered the film release in her May 9, 2014, article for the LATimes.com, “‘Fed Up’ documentary lays blame for American obesity on food industry.”

The film focused largely on the increase in daily intake of sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup. Not surprisingly, objections to the film have been raised by the Sugar Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

According to MacVean, “The filmmakers interviewed many well-known researchers and writers about the American diet, including author Gary Taubes, New York University professor Marion Nestle and Kelly Brownell, dean of the public policy school at Duke University. They noted, however, that food industry representatives declined to take part in the movie.”

The bottom line of the film is that Americans should actively reduce their intake of added sweeteners. David has stated that she would also like to see improvements in school lunch programs, nutrition education and package labeling.

Causes of obesity linked to sugar

The film Fed Up focused its attention on all kinds of added sweeteners from cane sugar to high fructose corn syrup. To make its point, the film focused on several obese adolescents and their families as they struggle with the effects of obesity.

According to Michael O’Sullivan, the film is more of a rallying cry than a warning to the uninformed. In his May 8, 2014, article for the WashingtonPost.com, “‘Fed Up’ movie review: The sins of sugar,” O’Sullivan explained that the film missed the mark regarding the economics of food preparation.

“Making dinner from scratch can be a challenge for people pressed for time, inspiration and cash. Subsidies propping up the fast-food and processed-food industries often make it cheaper and more convenient to buy prepared foods than wholesome ingredients. Change, according to the film, isn’t going to happen unless it comes in the form of a revolution,” O’Sullivan observed.

Not all calories are equal

We’ve been told that there is no difference between calories from sweets as opposed to calories from other sources. That may not be true after all.

In her April 2012 article for Nutrition Action, “Sugar Belly: How Much Is Too Much Sugar?” Bonnie Liebman discussed how sugar intake creates the kind of body fat that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

“And studies haven’t found that you’d gain more pounds from, say, 100 calories of added sugars than from 100 calories of other foods. But calories from fructose (which is found only in added sugars and fruit) may be more likely than other calories to aim for your waist,” Liebman explained.

According to Liebman, Americans currently consume on average anywhere from 350 to 440 empty calories per day from sugar. She advised that cutting back to 100 calories or 6 1/2 teaspoons a day for women and 150 calories (9 1/2 teaspoons) a day for men would produce slimmer waistlines and lower the risk of disease.

More than obesity

If obesity is the primary cause of metabolic illnesses such as diabetes, then why are we seeing an increase in these diseases in more than half of the population in the U.S and the U.K.? According to the film, this fact points to an exposure problem rather than a behavior problem.

Edward Helmore explained the startling data in his May 10, 2014, article for TheGuardian.com, “Sugar is the real enemy, not fat itself, says film targeting obesity.”

According to Helmore, “Early-onset diabetes, a condition associated with exposure to cane sugar and corn syrup, was virtually unknown a few years ago. If current rates continue, one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050.”

Read more about food and nutrition topics on Questia.

Do you think that there is a link between dietary sugar and obesity? Tell us in the comments.

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