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May 5, 2014 04:59 PM

New Movie: "Fed Up"

Here is a new movie, opening May 9, about food industry conspiracies and sugar.

However you feel/think about this topic, it should be an interesting movie!

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  1. Review from Sundance

    " But the facts quickly pile up: It doesn’t take much convincing to connect the dots between Americans doubling their sugar intake since 1977 and the explosion of Type 2 diabetes in the past 30 years. "

    Did this reviewer misunderstand something, or did the movie make a wrong claim (about doubling sugar intake)?

    According to a USDA 2000 study:

    "Per capita consumption of caloric sweeteners...increased 43 pounds, or 39 percent, between 1950-59 and 2000 (table 2-6)."

    According to that table sugar (the real stuff) intake dropped from 96lb in the 60s to 65 in 2000. Corn sweeteners have increased substantially, doubling from some time in the 70s. So there has been a net increase in sweetern use, but no where near a doubling.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      Thanks for that link.

      An interesting statement from the review:

      "Soechtig asserts that in the conflict between promoting health and promoting industry, the clear winner is industry"

    2. NY Times blog on the movie:

      I don't have much hope for this documentary, given Katie Couric's major role and her recent track record where health and science are concerned (e.g. see Emily Willingham's piece at Forbes: )

      1 Reply
      1. re: drongo

        Thanks for the Forbes link. Its always disconcerting when a well respected commentator seems to let a personal moral philosophy get in the way of objective scientific evidence.

        In the NYT link I thought the rebuttal from the sugar industry representative was very telling.

      2. It looks like seeing the movie in a theatre will be difficult. A bunch of "one night only" events.

        2 Replies
        1. re: johnseberg

          A bunch of big city 'artsy' Landmarktheaters showings

          I saw the trailer for this a couple weeks ago while watching Wind Rises at one of their discount threaters.

          1. re: johnseberg

            I was mistaken. This movie is scheduled to show 5x per day, for at least one week (Harkins Camelview 5, Scottsdale, AZ).

            CBC review of the movie.
            "The principal culprit is sugar, they say, which is added to many products, including ketchup, pasta sauce, salad dressing, breakfast cereals, juice and energy drinks, baked goods, yogurt and even baby formula."

            This raises 2 flags for me:

            'even baby forumla' - I explored this in the context of the Lustig talk thread. If baby formula is supposed to imitate human milk, then it has to have some sort of sugar. If based on cow milk that sugar can be mostly lactose. But if it is non-dairy formula (e.g. soy based) the sugar has to come from some other source. The packages I looked at listed 'corn syrup solids'.

            just how much sugar is there in things like ketchup and pasta sauce? What proportion of the total sugar intake comes from 'savory' sources (as opposed to obvious ones like soft drinks, candy and desserts)?

            has a pie chart of sugar sources. Baked goods and 'other (including table sugar)' make up 39%. I suspect savory processed goods are only a small part of that.

            25 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              Paul - is the question not how much added sugar is in savoury foods but why is there any added sugar in these foods.

              The answer to that is it often replaces the fat that gave the food substance and flavour. And as fats are metabolised differently (contributing fewer calories to our metabolism), and satiate appetites thus reducing intake. So the cumulative effect of adding sugar is far greater than the effect of sugar alone.

              1. re: PhilD

                Yes there are examples of reducing the fat in products, and making up for it with sweetness, but I don't think it helps the argument to overstate the case.

                I don't think fat-replacement has any thing to do with sugar in ketchup, bbq sauce, and pasta sauce. An interplay of salt, acid, and sweet (and umami) is the foundation of nearly all condiments. Sugar may be used in a pasta sauce if the tomatoes are not sweet enough (though brands like Ragu are too sweet for my taste - and was the case back in 70s).

                Miracle Whip is an old example of replacing oil with less expensive ingredients. The body comes from starch (instead of an oil emulsion). Flavor from an interplay of acid and sweet.

                I have condiments with sugar that never had oil or fat, balsamic glaze, ketchap manis (sweet Indoesian soysauce), seasoned rice vinegar.

                1. re: paulj

                  You need to remember a lot of the large scale commercial savoury products are made from fairly cheap ingredients. So the tomatoes will be cheap, probably slightly underripe (less spoilage) and will thus need enhancement in the form of sugars like corn syrup. I also believe the sugars bulk up products.

                  In "meat" products they will often use low quality meats and even MRM (mechanically recovered meat) and these types of ingredients need lots of additives including sugars to give them flavour etc.

                  And yes condiments balance salt/sweet/sour to get their unique flavours. but I think you would find that the amount of sugar added to commercial products is far more than the home made product. Partially this is due to the food science and economics but also partly because consumers now like sweet food so extra sugar is added.

                  I don't live in the US but when I visit I am always surprised about how sweet basic foodstuffs even bread seems unnaturally so. So as an example breakfast buffets are a challenge to avoid a big sugar rush.

              2. re: paulj

                Ragu Chunky Gardenstyle: 50g sugar per 24-oz jar.

                Only checked that because it came up first when I googled around. Maybe it's some total outlier & most pasta sauce has much less, i don't know. But it's a common brand.

                When I make pasta sauce I don't add any sugar. Maybe if you make vast quantities to sell you have to for some reason.. i don't know.

                Anyway, it's there.

                1. re: chowyadoin99

                  In addition to tomato sauce, you can also add salad dressing to the list of items that when made at home typically don't include added sugar (provided you're not going a 'honey Dijon' route) - but the majority of the big brands all include sugar. Also foods like yogurt, which aren't necessarily considered savory - but to buy yogurt without added sugar in the US means doing a LOT more label reading.

                  1. re: cresyd

                    It's easy to buy yogurt without added sugar - just look for the word 'plain'. I've been doing that for years.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Same at our house. It is a little bit more difficult sometimes to find full fat.

                      We buy goat-gurt these days. Supposed to be more digestible.

                      1. re: paulj

                        "Plain" Yoplait yogurt has sugar added. It's not across the board.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          Yet another reason to read ingredients. Nutritional info serves some purpose, but ingredients are so much more important.

                          I don't understand buying Yoplait when there are so many others that are better.

                          1. re: cresyd

                            With just a quick search I couldn't find a plain Yoplait.

                            I tend to buy the pint or larger size containers, where plain and vanilla are usual flavors. That's easier find in the generic or house brands, though Dannon has plain in the 1 cup size:


                            I'm spoiled with Trader Joes which has plain Greek style in 3 fat levels.

                        2. re: cresyd

                          I think yogurt could be a great example of a good food gone bad.

                          I speculate yogurt, prior to homogenization and pasteurization was a richly nutritious food, perhaps some of the most nutritious fat in human food history.

                          Fast forward to the misguided low-fat American diet of the 1970's - the fat is removed, *and* all those fat-soluble vitamins along with it. The stuff takes a big drop in palatability, so, sugar and flavorings are added. Brand X, with carrageenan, out-sells Brand Y, so, Brand Y adds carrageenan, too. And so on.

                          I think that if you go to a grocery (even a "health food") store, and calculate what percentage of the choices are full fat, plain, no sugar added yogurt, you'll get a single digit answer.

                          I went to Whole Foods, yesterday, a rare splurge. There was a person giving samples of "grass-fed" yogurt. I asked if she had a full fat choice. The answer was "no". Incredible. IMO, the whole point of using grass-fed milk is to get a more nutritious fat, the best fatty acid profile, and the best fat soluble vitamin content. "Grass-fed" and "low-fat" just don't belong together, but, they serve as effective marketing buzz words, even at Whole Foods, where the customers are supposed to be a little smarter. Sad.

                          1. re: johnseberg

                            My memory (dating back to the 70s) is the yogurt (in the USA) has always had a health-food dieting image. Why make 'ice cream' from yogurt if it isn't to cut back on the fat?

                            It was Dannon marketing that convinced us that centenarians in the Caucusus ate it.


                            There was a thread, not too long ago, about
                            Why No Men in TV Yogurt Commercials?

                            and Brogurt

                            1. re: paulj

                              I remember those old Dannon commercials.

                              I also remember "Thanks for ruining my daddy's business, you fat f___." (seinfeld reference)

                        3. re: chowyadoin99

                          Some of that sugar comes from the tomatoes and other vegetables. As a comparison, I plugged Mario Batali's basic tomato sauce recipe (which calls for no added sugar) into a calorie calculator and got about 25 g sugar per 24 oz sauce -- i.e. about half of what is in the Ragu Chunky Gardenstyle.

                          1. re: drongo

                            When you put pasta sauce on pasta, what proportion of the carbs comes from the pasta, and what from the sauce (even Ragu)? Which is worse/or better. Sucrose breaks down to fructose and glucose. Wheat starch to just glucose (though possibly slower).

                            1. re: paulj

                              That's a simple question to answer but is it the right question to ask?

                              So the answer: assuming the ratio of sauce to pasta is pretty normal then clearly the pasta should supply the majority of carbs.

                              But, the real questions to ask is why should the sauce contribute more carbs in the form of added sugar. Why add these carbs to start with - would it not be better to reduce the overall level of carbs by eliminating extraneous ingredients?

                              1. re: PhilD

                                What makes an ingredient 'extraneous'? Ragu doesn't add sugar just to pump up the carb calories. It contributes to the flavor profile (taste in less commerical sense) that they seek and their customers expect.

                                Many cultures have foods that are excessively sweet in comparison to the equivalent in others.

                                European Nutella has been compared to American peanut butter - except it is heavy in sugar and saturated fats.

                                Asia puts sugar in their dried pork floss. One of my indulgences when shopping at a large Asian grocery is pork sung bun - sweet bread with cream filling and sweet/salty dried pork topping.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  "Etraneous" clearly depends on your POV. If you area food marketeer targeting a product at children then sugar isn't extraneous. But in the context of this discussion, I would define "extraneous" as an ingredient that shouldn't be required to produce a product that has a natural flavour profile.

                                  So plain yoghurt should not need added sugar (in fact why do fruit yoghurts need added sugar?), orange juice shouldn't need added sugar (yet most does have it), and of course savoury dishes like a ragu shouldn't have added sugar (the tomato should add the required sweetness in the dish).

                                  Agree the sugar isn't there to pump up the carbs. Agree its to add to the taste. And often its there to either balance the reduction in fat or to make the dish more marketable to a public addicted to sweet sugary dishes (sales of sodas is an example).

                                  So the food industry has weaned us onto added sugar/carb products to either make the product palatable - replacing things like "bad" fats, or disguising poor quality ingredients. Or to compete for market share - consumers like sweet foods so they ell sweet foods, consumers get used to sweet foods, so to differentiate you need sweeter foods. I don't think this is a good thing and its the reason to push back on it.

                                  Agree sweets foods do vary slightly by culture. Nutella (and many confectionary products) are formulated for particular markets, Nutella I believe is far sweeter in the US/UK than in continental Europe. And in Asia some dishes are sweet but they traditionally were eaten in moderation and in balance with other dishes - think of the salt/sweet/sour/hot balance in many asian cultures.

                                  But my point about sweet foods is that in the UK/US many sweet foods shouldn't be sweet to start with. Bread is a great example, mass produced US bread and other bakery products are incredibly sweet and consumed by the masses. Compare the supermarket products to the artisanal ones and these are far less sweet, yet sell well to the discerning eater.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    I have heard from British friends about the extra sweetness in the USA.

                                    I eliminated sugar and processed foods from my diet for a few weeks, and things like sweet potatoes and winter squash started tasting much sweeter to me. Certain sweet potatoes were almost too sweet.

                                    Now, despite eating a ton of fat, I can't gain weight!

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      Part of the reason for adding sweet of some sort (glucose, honey, molasses, evaporated-cane-juice) to bread is to extend shelf life. The standard baguette is best bought the day it is baked, and goes stale within a day or two. That is fine if there's a bakery around the corner. But Americans are more likely to buy their bread once a week.

                                      In a whole-grain bread sweet hides the bitter edge that whole grains often have. Molasses is also used to add color.

                                      But if we want to complain about sweet breads, I think east Asia takes the 'cake'. In the USA the sweetest plain bread style is Hawaiian. I don't know if that's because of its keeping quality or the Asian influence.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Not certain I but the fresh argument as lots of countries have long life breads and they are not as sweet as the US (even in France). So whilst they will be sweeter than traditional breads do they need to be as sweet?

                                        Agree sugar can mask bitter flavours but isn't that about conditioning the palette and do you need to add colour if using wholegrain flours?

                                        Agree Asian breads can be sweet but there is fairly limited consumption....apart from Pineapple Buns for breakfast...! One of the challenges Asia faces is rising obesity and Type 2 diabetes across a number of countries and part of that is down to the spread of western foods including processed foods and no doubt the cloyingly sweet milk tea made with conduced milk (I blame my British forbears for that).

                                      2. re: PhilD

                                        Here's a comparison of the Canadian and Italian Nutellas:
                                        It's clear that the hazelnut flavor is stronger in the Italian. But whether sugar level in the American is higher or not is hard to say. I haven't seen nutritional label numbers.

                                        Sugar and oil are the top ingredients in both.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Interestingly the sugar level seems to be the same - 56.7g per 100g in Italy and 21g per 37g serving in the US. I wonder what accounts for the taste difference - its not just one blog? And its a hell of a lot of sugar - no wonder my mother wouldn't allow it in the house.

                                          In my distant past I worked in a Chocolate factory (now owned by a big swiss company) and we definitely varied the mix for chocolates depending on the target market including the sugar content.

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            Ugh, American boxes chocolates - waxy, sugary, no discernible chocolate.

                          2. Another review from the Sundance showing

                            ""Fed Up" is not an artistically adventurous movie. It's a well-paced assemblage of semi-amusingly rendered statistics, graphics set against images of bulging bellies and then the aforementioned cutaways to news story headlines."

                            It isn't fresh, if you are already familiar with ""Fast Food Nation" or anything by Michael Pollan and if you haven't seen "Food Inc.""