Director: Stephanie Soechtig
Writers: Mark Monroe, Stephanie Soechtig
Fed Up shows how the first dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. government 30 years ago overlooked the role of dietary sugar in increasing risks of obesity, diabetes, and associated ill-health outcomes, particularly in children. Since these guidelines effectively condoned the unlimited addition of sugar to foods consumed by children, sugar consumption has greatly increased, obesity has skyrocketed, and generations of children have grown up far fatter than their parents. These children face impaired health and shorter lifespans as a result. As the relationship between the high-sugar diet and poor health has emerged, entrenched sugar industry interests with almost unlimited financial lobbying resources have nullified attempts by parents, schools, states, and in Congress to provide a healthier diet for children. The film concludes with a list of 20 companies, industry groups and politicians who refused to talk to the filmmakers.
[Siren wailing in distance]
[Woman On TV] …on the bridge, a little bit slow right now on the lower level. Upper level looking much better.
[Woman #2 On TV] Thanks, Al. 8:05 on this Wednesday morning. Time now for a check of your Mathis Brothers…
[Man On TV] The bottom line is, you know, the epidemic here, Susan, is worse than previously estimated… probably much worse. We have this new report coming out overnight from the Journal of the American Medical Association… …of Doctors has described this week what it calls an emerging epidemic.
[Katie Couric] Military leaders called that a threat to national security. If it doesn’t affect you personally, it will affect you indirectly by someone you know, someone in your family.
It is just going up much faster than we thought.
[Man On TV] The problem just keeps getting worse.
[Man #2 On TV] This is a terror from within. It is a global epidemic. Epidemic.
[Man #3] Clearly something’s gone wrong.
[Man #4] Kids are being told the biggest lie they will ever hear in their lives. She cannot… literally cannot calm herself down.
[Couric] In the past quarter century, the number of overweight children has grown from one in 20 to nearly one in five. Used to be you’d have one or two heavyset kids in a class. Now we get eight or 10.
[Man #5] This year, for the first time in the history of the world, more people will die from the effects of obesity than from starvation.
[Man #6] This has ramifications far beyond obesity itself
[Man #7] It is worse than even smoking. The cost of this is about…
[Woman #3] Half a trillion dollars in additional health care cost… half a trillion.
[Man #8] The American Academy of Family Physicians partnered up with Coca-Cola.
[Woman #4] Isn’t this a conflict of interest?
[Man #9] Hope that the American Academy of Family Physicians is looking for… Researchers say obesity is causing more and more cases of cancer and is now catching up to smoking as the leading cause…
[Couric Narrating] It started out as a small story, I had no idea I’d be talking about weight gain and obesity my entire career. We’ve been covering the problem and solutions for over 30 years.
[Richard Simmons] It’s sweatin’ time.
[Couric] In that time, entire industries have ignited over the weight problem.
[Woman] I will never look like that again.
First came the magazines, then the talk shows-
And how was the diet for you? This is the miracle we’ve been waiting for.
[Couric] And now our epidemic is entertainment on network television. How is this still an issue, much less a worldwide epidemic We get new solutions every day. Everything in the grocery store is made with less fat and fewer calories and yet our kids keep getting bigger and sicker. It makes no sense.
Is there a link between our ever-expanding waistlines and the government’s own dietary guidelines?
[Couric] And that got me thinking, what if the solutions weren’t really solutions at all?
The Bush administration is resisting a plan from the World Health Organization to fight obesity…
[Couric] What if they were actually making things worse?
There are a very high percentage of young people overweight because of a number of things that have happened in our country in the last several years.
[Couric] What if our whole approach to this epidemic has been dead wrong?
[Brady Kluge, age 15] Sorry. Okay. Uh, let me fix this. You know, one person told me that fat people were just made to be fat. And I don’t think that’s true. And I know it’s hard, ’cause I’m still overweight. And right now I feel like I always will be.
[Brady] Why do you not eat vegetables, Taylor?
‘Cause I do not like them.
Why not? ‘Cause I don’t. You just say you don’t, but you don’t have a reason.
Yes, I do.
What’s the reason? I don’t.
[Brady] Being in the South, we eat a lot of fattening things. We eat macaroni and cheese, fried cube steak, fried chicken. And that’s what we’re used to. That’s what I’ve grown up doing. I’ve done what my parents done. My parents have done what they’ve done. It’s passed on from generation. And once you start overeating, it becomes the worst habit, and it just grows.
[Mother] The first time that I think he ever mentioned the teasing… calling him fat or something, I think it was probably around the age of eight. Some girls told him they wanted to see how fast he could run, and he ran. And later, another girl came to him and told him.. that they were laughing at him, and they just wanted him to run so they could see his fat shake. He stayed upset about that for so long.
[Brady] We ready to eat, Mama?
[Brady] I’m 15, and I weigh around 215 pounds.
[Tinna] If you like it that way.
[Brady] l’d like to lose about 50 to 55 pounds. I could do so many more things. Maybe I could play football or play baseball. I’ve always had an interest in baseball.
[Tinna] We talk about it a lot… about, you know, the weight thing and I’ve always been overweight. And I was overweight at his age. And I don’t want him to be having to obsess about weight his whole life. You know, I want him to be able to focus on other things that are more important. I really think he wants to lose weight. I just think he doesn’t know how to do it.
[Brady] Everybody else doesn’t look at it the same way as I do. I look at it as I’m failing, and they just look at it as he’s just another fat kid.
[Man] Kids are obese for two reasons… They have voracious appetites, and they don’t exercise enough.
[Whoopi Goldberg] Americans view overweight people as lazy, unambitious and lacking willpower.
[Man #2] All we have to do is have people eat less and exercise more. Not a very big problem. The subtle message is “It’s your fault you’re fat.” All you need to do is eat less, exercise more. It’s all about personal responsibility, about willpower. That’s the message that’s been pushed on us. I want to see you all moving, all right? Forget about it.
[Couric] “Eat less, exercise more”. has been the common sense answer to unwanted weight for more than half a century. This was the science. And it started with a mouse. The year was 1953. Up until this point, exercise had been considered taboo. Doctors even warned it would cause heart attacks and diminish your sex drive. Then came Dr. Jean Mayer, a French physiologist who would become the foremost expert on obesity in the U.S. He noted that large lab mice ate virtually the same amount as smaller mice. But the big ones weren’t nearly as active afterwards. Mayer’s conclusion, lack of exercise must be related to weight gain. His finding sparked a fitness revolution.
[Man] This is where you come and punish yourself for fun… or rather, for your health. Here we go now. We’re gonna step apart together. To the right. Apart…
[Couric] By the time Jane Fonda became the face of fitness, Americans were spending billions of dollars trying to lose weight.
[Woman] ♪ Let’s get physical Physical ♪ I wanna get physical ♪
[Couric] But as more and more people began exercising, more and more waistlines grew out of control. Between 1980 and 2000, fitness club memberships more than doubled across the United States. During that same time, the obesity rate also doubled. A decade later, two out of every three Americans were either overweight or obese. So how is it possible… that the enormous rise of the fitness revolution, almost exactly mirrored the rise in obesity rates.
[Man] Something is making that happen. The question is, how is that happening in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Norway, South Africa and everywhere else. And we have obese six-month-olds. You want to tell me that they’re supposed to diet and exercise? So, how our politicians can continue to espouse this same mantra… “Diet and exercise, you are what you eat, it’s your fault” is absolutely beyond me.
[Girl] I am 12 years old, and I weigh 212 pounds. My doctors have said that I am a statistic. I don’t really know what it means. I think it has something to do with my weight. They normally say that I’m just supposed to eat healthier and exercise a lot more, which is what I am doing. I swim four days a week and then walking my dogs on the weekends.
[Woman] We didn’t really start to worry about it until I think she was eight, um, when the doctor wanted us to seek a nutritionist to kind of address the issue. And I just remember at that time we called the nutritionist that he wanted us to and we were told, “We don’t see children that young.” It has to do a lot with their self-esteem, especially with girls once they hit their teenage years because, “Oh, I’m the fat kid, and I always have to consciously watch what I eat.” My doctor, um… he told me to join Weight Watchers, um, and I can’t, because I’m not old enough yet. Then we stopped at that point and said, you know what? We know… We have the tools. We know what we’re supposed to do. Let’s just try and do it ourselves. Some of the things that I do when I look for healthier choices is doing the reduced fat… It’s got more fiber in it. It’s made with more whole grains. I look at the fat content, but cereal, by its very nature, is generally pretty low in fat. So cereal’s a good go-to for pretty much any meal replacement. I know what my family will eat, and I try and consider that when I’m purchasing things.
[Maggie] I would expect that, since I’m eating healthy and exercising a lot, that I would be able to lose more weight than I am. But my weight has mostly stayed the same. So, sometimes it gets a little bit frustrating.
[Man] This whole generation of kids, they’re doing their best. They’re torturing themselves to do the cure that we tell them, and it’s the wrong cure. And we’re blaming the willpower, the moral fortitude of these kids, and it’s a crime.
[Man] There is a solution to obesity. It’s energy balance. It’s balancing calories in and calories out.
[Woman] We’re eating and drinking too much and not getting enough exercise.
[Man #2] We will have to have greater emphasis on getting that energy balance. Nowadays there’s this phrase, “Let’s practice energy balance.” Okay, we’re gonna make sure that we know how to match the calories in to the calories out so that we don’t get fat. It’s nonsense. You eat, say, 110 bites of food a day, and you only burn off 109 of them, you’re gonna get obese in 20 years. Even if there’s a Guinness world record holder of calorie counting, calories in to the calories out, nobody can do it.
What do you have next?
Next I have swim team. We certainly don’t want to discourage people from exercising or underplay the importance of physical activity to health, but we are not gonna exercise our way out of this obesity problem. To burn off just one 20-ounce Coke, a child would have to bike for an hour and 15 minutes. Most people don’t have that much time in their day.
[Lustig] So if you burn a calorie sleeping, or you burn a calorie exercising, it’s still a calorie burned. The question is, is a calorie eaten a calorie eaten. And for that we have really good data. And it says a calorie is not a calorie. Why is a calorie not a calorie? All right. Let’s give you an example. Let’s take an easy one. Let’s take almonds. If you consume 160 calories in almonds, because of the fiber in the almonds, the food is not going to get absorbed immediately. So your blood sugar rise is gonna be a lot lower, it’s gonna be for longer. So what’s the opposite of the almond? Well, the opposite of the almond would be a soft drink. Because there’s no fiber, they get absorbed straight through the portal system to the liver. The liver gets this big sugar rush. And when your liver gets that onslaught, it has no choice but to turn it into fat immediately. So, 160 calories in almonds, or 160 calories in soda. You tell me which is better.
[Coca-Cola Advertisement] For over 125 years, we’ve been bringing people together.
[Couric] And yet we are continually being sold a message contrary to the science.
[Coca-Cola Advertisement] …on something that concerns all of us… obesity.
[Couric] Our weight, we’re told, comes down to calories in and calories out.
[Coca-Cola Advertisement] One simple, common sense fact. All calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories. And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you’ll gain weight.
[Michele Simon, President Eat Drink Politics] Well, one thing we need to understand, that the food industry is really at the heart of this problem. We’re handing the industry a big gift in that they get to confuse the issue by talking about exercise. It’s all about the spin, right? So the food industry is good at kind of taking half-truths and then stretching them.
[Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition. New York University] Food companies are interested in selling more food. That’s their job as a corporation. And one way to do that is to co-opt potential critics. The soft drink companies fund research in universities. They donate to professional societies. And, in fact, I just saw a new major analysis that says that soft drinks have nothing to do with obesity. And the study was sponsored in part by Coca-Cola.
We haven’t heard this kind of association before. It’s the American Academy of Family Physicians. They have partnered up with… Coca-Cola, which…
[Man] You know… Yeah, definitely a head-scratcher.
[Couric] Immediately after Coke’s announcement, a group of 20 doctors who helped make up the American Academy of Family Physicians publicly resigned. How can any organization that claims to promote public health join forces with a company that promotes products that put our children at risk?
[Couric] But not all doctors see it the same way, particularly those whose research is funded by the industry.
[Male Newscaster] Even though study after study has shown soda to be a significant contributor to America’s staggering obesity crisis. Dr. Allison says there’s not enough “solid evidence.” But his critics say Allison is motivated by something else… by all the money he has repeatedly taken from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and the American Beverage Association.
[Couric] I know you’ve received a lot of money from the food industry in general. Was there evidence that said the ingestion of sugary beverages actually contributed to the obesity problem?
[David Allison, Ph.D., Director, Nutrition Obesity Research Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham] Ingestion of all calories contributes to the obesity problem. One question you might ask is whether sugary beverages contribute more so than do other calories. That’s a very challenging question to ask.
[Couric] Well, let me ask you that. Do they?
[David Allison] It’s a good question. There’s reasons to believe they might. But I don’t think the evidence is quite clear. For example…
[Couric] And what would be the science behind that?
[David Allison] Well, the ideal study might be requiring people to, uh, uh… Excuse me. Let me start again on that. Let me just get my thoughts together.
[Man] We know sugared beverage consumption is producing diabetes and obesity. It’s just ridiculous to think otherwise. And, of course, research shows it to be the case. And people are getting wise to industry-funded studies that show the opposite.
[Taubes] If you’re peddling Coca-Cola, Pepsi, sugar water, Gatorade, you don’t want your food to be considered inherently fattening, just as the tobacco industry would have preferred that their product not been considered inherently capable of causing cancer. But just like cigarettes literally cause lung cancer, certain foods literally make you fat.
This is a big bag. What did you have for lunch?
Let’s tell the truth.
Um… Hamburger. French fries. Milk and juice.
Milk and juice?
They give them both. If you ever go on a diet, and you try to eat healthier food, your brain’s still telling you “Eat, eat, eat. It’s not what I want. No, get something else.” You’re still used to that fattening stuff. That’s why it’s hard to go on a diet. You ain’t got but a few more to go. This time of night you don’t eat that many.
Gotta savor the flavor.
You gotta savor the flavor? You gotta savor the flavor ’cause you only get so many chips. I’m trying to lose weight. My weight is pretty heavy. 180. I’m a pretty heavy dude. That’s why I try to get exercise in, eat some healthy food every day.
[Mother] We, um, started eating different things, more fruits and vegetables. We limit our starches. We limit our breads. We keep healthier snacks. He loves Hot Pockets. So they have Lean Hot Pockets. So I make sure to have the lean ones versus the regular ones. It costs more to eat healthier. So we slip. And I’m not gonna say we don’t. Because it’s easier to go in there and buy the cereals with sugar in it. It’s easier to buy chips, because it’s cheaper. And that’s what the food industry wants them to think. They want them to think it’s cheaper.
KFC Family Feast. Nine pieces, any recipe, three large sides, six biscuits, 19.99. Do not give up on dinner. Mm.
[Hyman] “You deserve a break today.” You can get a “value meal.” These are messages that have kind of gotten embedded into our culture, into their thinking. But there is well-documented scientific proof that you can eat well for less, and they don’t know that.
[Woman] Okay, we’re gonna be in room number nine. Just come right in. And it’ll be just a moment, okay?
[Man] How is the diet control going? Diet control for him is getting… is better. At first it was rocky, but it’s a lot better. I’m happy to hear that you think things are going so well, but it’s a bit concerning, because when I look at Wesley, he doesn’t look any thinner. In fact, he actually looks bigger than he did a few years ago. And what I see from the data is… is that he’s continued to gain weight even faster than the rate that he was before. His weight is even higher than it was last time.
I’ve eaten less than I usually have. I’ve exercised more. And I don’t really know why I’m getting more weight.
Mom, have you noticed that his skin here… is starting to get a little bit dark and a little bit thick. It’s part of what we call metabolic syndrome. Oh. Okay. His body is already starting to show some of the adult signs of overweight and obesity.
I worry about that I might have a heart attack or a seizure, or something like that I’ve seen these things on the news. And I’ve seen my family have had it too. And I’m worried myself might have it.
[Nurse] So relax your arm and your leg. And take some deep breaths. And here we go.
[Hyman] It’s not just genetics. We’re seeing strokes in eight-year-olds. We’re seeing heart attacks in 20-year-olds. We’re seeing kids at 30, by their 30th birthday needing renal dialysis for kidney failure because of these problems.
[Lustig] Genetics are a very important part of this and certainly there are people who are genetically susceptible and genetically prone. But genetics is not what this is about.
When I was young, the obesity rates were actually pretty rare among children. There’s been a stunning increase.
[Woman] We haven’t had this situation throughout the whole history of mankind until the past 30, 40 years.
[Couric] Most experts say the obesity epidemic really has taken place in the last 30 years or so. Looking back, do you think there’s anything that your administration or other administrations could have done to prevent this?
[Bill Clinton] I don’t know. I missed it sort of. We knew that… We had an effort to try to increase the exercise programs in the schools and improve the cafeteria requirements but I don’t think we appreciated the magnitude of it. We’ve got all these kids, even preteens, with type 2 diabetes now. That used to be called adult-onset diabetes. It was unheard of for young people to get it. And it’s becoming a big problem in other parts of the world. Second-fastest growing area… Middle East and North Africa. It’s not only a personal tragedy for a lot of young people and interferes with their quality of life, their mobility, but it will lead to enormous complications for us.
As physicians, we know how to take care of a 50-year-old or 60-year-old with type 2 diabetes. What none of us have done is to take care of that 10-year-old with type 2 diabetes for five, six, seven decades. We don’t know the consequences of that. And that scares me greatly.
[Couric] If there’s a moment in time marking the start of the obesity epidemic, it’s 1977, the McGovern Report.
The Senate Special Committee on Nutrition is looking into the connection between heart disease and diet.
[Couric] Expert testimony before the committee on nutrition and human needs warned Senator George McGovern that obesity would soon be the number one form of malnutrition in the United States.
When we get the kind of overwhelming consensus that has developed before this committee it seems to me we have some obligation to share that with the American people.
[Couric] With predictions of rising medical cost, the committee issued the very first dietary goals for Americans noting that our diet had become overly rich in fatty meats, rich in saturated fats and cholesterol, and rich in sugar. The egg, sugar, dairy and beef associations with sales of their products in danger, united, and flat-out rejected the McGovern Report. They even demanded a rewrite. The byzantine politics that I saw taking place here the last couple of weeks had to do with the power of lobbies.
[Couric] Despite McGovern’s best intention, the dietary goals were indeed revised and the words “reduced intake” were removed from the report for good. Instead, they encouraged Americans to buy leaner products and buy more food with less fat. And so, the 1980s began with a new health doctrine, and a brand-new market, every food product imaginable reengineered to be low in fat. When you take the fat out of the food, it tastes nasty. Tastes terrible. Tastes like cardboard. Food industry knew that. So they had to do something to make the food palatable, to make it worth eating. So what did they do? Dumped in the sugar. ♪♪
[Man] Sugar ♪ Aw, honey, honey ♪ You are my candy girl ♪ And you got me wanting you ♪ Honey ♪ Aw, sugar, sugar ♪ You are my candy girl ♪ And you got me wanting you ♪
[Couric] Between 1977 and 2000 Americans have doubled their daily intake of sugar. Sugar is poison. It is a chronic… not acute… chronic dose-dependent… depends on how much you eat, because there is a safe threshold, hepato… “liver”… toxin. The metabolic diseases that are associated with obesity, the diabetes, the heart disease, the lipid problems, the strokes, the cancer… those diseases are being driven by sugar.
[Couric] Fructose, the sweet part of sugar can only be processed in the liver. When your liver is pushed to the max, the pancreas comes to the rescue by producing excess amounts of a hormone called insulin.
[Lustig] Insulin is the energy storage hormone. Insulin turns sugar into fat for storage. That’s insulin’s job.
[Couric] High levels of insulin can also block your brain from receiving the signal that you’re full. [Beeping]
[Lustig] Problem is your brain thinks you’re starving. So how do you feel when you’re starved? Crappy, tired, slothy. Sit on the couch, don’t want to do anything. And, of course, hungry. Well, I’ve just described every obese patient. The behaviors that we associate with obesity… the eating too much, the exercising too little… the gluttony and the sloth, they are the result of the biochemistry, not the cause.
[Brady] All right. I’m at the grocery store with my mom and so far our buggy’s got Cheez-Its, cookies, pudding…
[Couric] The problem is sugar isn’t just in cookies and desserts.
[Lustig] If you go to the supermarket, there are 600,000 food items in America, and 80% of them have added sugar.
[Couric] Sugar can hide behind many names on nutrition labels, like sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, invert sugar and turbinado sugar. And the most well-known of all, high-fructose corn syrup.
[Lustig] You’ll absorb them exactly the same. And so, all of the studies that have pitted high-fructose corn syrup against sugar show no difference between the two. They’re both equally bad.
[Couric] So, too much sugar, in any form, is dangerous, even if the high-fructose corn syrup is replaced with any of these other varieties.
It’s not just all of the excessive sugars but the processed starches too, white bread, white rice, potato products, prepared breakfast cereals, are digested into glucose literally in an instant in the digestive tract. You can eat a bowl of corn flakes with no added sugar or you could eat a bowl of sugar with no added corn flakes. They might taste different, but below the neck, they’re metabolically the same thing.
[Lustig] When you consume sugar naturally, that is, in fruit, you’re getting the fiber that you need to mitigate the negative effects. Am I worried about fruit? No. But am I worried about fruit juice? Oh, you bet. Because when you take the fiber out you might as well be drinking a Coke.
I drink diet soda all the time and I want to know if diet soda is good for you or bad for you.
[Hyman] A lot of people think that they can just switch from sugar to artificial sweeteners, “diet” this, “diet” that, Splenda, aspartame… but it triggers hormonal responses that cause you to produce more insulin. They make you crave more. They make you hungry. You think sugar’s on the way. Your brain’s like, “Wait a minute, I think sugar’s coming. I tasted it.” So, low sugar, low fat, diet foods, they’re dangerous, and they’re actually disease producing as well.
Disease doesn’t happen with one meal, but it happens with a thousand. But that’s what we have, because now sugar is with every meal.
Good morning. I am just getting ready to go to school this morning, and I just ate cereal.
♪♪ [Acoustic Rock] [Man] Sweet on the tip of my tongue ♪ You taste like ♪ Sunlight ♪ And strawberry bubble gum
[Brady] I have everything I need here to make my healthy lunch. Some peanut butter.
♪ You spike my blood ♪ And you make my heart beat faster ♪ Own me, you own ♪ And rattle my bones ♪ You turn me over and over ♪ Till I can’t control myself ♪ Make me a liar, yeah ♪ One big disaster ♪ You make my heart beat ♪ Faster [Vocalizing] ♪ ‘Cause you make my heart beat ♪ Faster ♪ You make my heart beat ♪ Faster, yeah ♪
[Lustig] So, 10 years of sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at suppertime, you’ve got this veritable tsunami of obesity and metabolic disease we see today.
My name is Joe Lopez. I’m 14 years old. And I’m in ninth grade. Right now I’m about nearly 400. I’ve tried a lot of things, but… none of them really work. I would lose some weight and then gain it back.
[Man] All of us in my family have always been heavy… all of us. I guess it’s culture. You know. It used to be… Grandma used to say, “You don’t get off of that table until you eat everything you have on there.” And we kind of thought that that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
[Maria Lopez, Joe’s Mother, Speaking Spanish] He’s always been overweight. But for the Hispanic family big is beautiful and it’s healthy.
[Joe] It’s not as easy to just stop eating, because I have a huge appetite. for Twinkies and all that sweet stuff.
[Edgar Lopez, Joe’s father] Yes, I know, you’re gonna say I’m putting him in harm’s way… by giving him all the food that he wants and stuff, but I know he sneaks stuff, cookies and cakes and all that. Or he gets stuff at school, or he gets stuff with his brother, and, uh… You don’t have no control over it. I wish I did, but, uh, you don’t. You don’t.
[Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner] Processed food is much more powerful than we ever realized. For decades, we had the science to show that drugs of abuse can hijack the neural circuits to get us to come back for more and more. We now have the science to show that you can make food hyper-palatable too and that gets us to come back for more and more.
[Man] Researchers at Princeton University have been studying how rats change their eating behavior if they’re allowed to drink sugar water…
[Couric] In a recent study, 43 cocaine-addicted laboratory rats were given the choice of cocaine or sugar water over a 15-day period. Forty out of the 43 chose the sugar. In another study, rats on a sugar water diet exhibited telltale signs of addiction, binging, craving and withdrawal when the sugar was taken away.
Food addiction is a real thing. It’s not a metaphor. It’s a biological fact. The studies show that your brain lights up with sugar just like it does with cocaine or heroin. In fact, sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine. So, if you start your baby early on addictive highly sugary foods, they’re gonna become addicted.
[Lustig] Take a look at formula. Certain formulas, especially lactose-free formulas, they substitute with sucrose. The food industry knows that the earlier they introduce these foods to people, to children, to infants, the more likely they will have branded them for the future.
[Couric] And every generation of kids born after 1980 has grown up surrounded by these highly addictive foods.
I see food, I get hungry. It’s… I don’t know what it is. I just… When I see it, I get hungry. My stomach’s telling me I’m not really hungry, but my mind’s telling me, “Eat.”
If you eat foods that are addictive… You can’t just have one line of coke. You can’t just have, you know, two cigarettes. You’re gonna become an addict.
[Man] Once you pop, you can’t stop.
[Hyman] We have to understand that the willpower idea, that personal responsibility, doesn’t work in the face of addiction.
A lot of times people wonder why it’s so hard to lose weight. But a big reason might be because you actually have those foods… the chips and the brownies and the cookies and cakes and ice cream… in your house. It’s just like being an alcoholic. Do you think an alcoholic could withstand from drinking that alcohol if he had a bottle of gin sitting next to him? It’d be tough to do. When you’re close to it, you want it. And it’s the same way with food.
[Kessler] We like to think we make rational decisions but the fact is our brains are getting constantly hijacked. You can’t walk, in most cities, most places more than a hundred feet without having your brain being activated in some way.
[Wootan] Gas stations used to sell gas. Now they’re all convenience stores. And there’s junk food at the checkout everywhere, at toy stores, at drugstores. Go to buy stationery supplies, linens, electronics… Every store these days has junk food right at the eye level of your kids.
And then you add the emotional gloss. You add other things. You add favorite cartoon characters. You make it into entertainment. You add toys. And then you add the carnival-like features. You add all these other layers of stimuli. And in the end, you end up with one of the great public health epidemics of our time.
Sometimes it’s hard. I see… chocolate, and I just want to eat it. I wish there was a pill I could take that would just make me thinner.
[Man] If a foreign nation was causing our children to become obese, that’s going to affect their health and hurt their happiness cause them to be depressed, to have poor self-esteem… If a foreign nation were doing that to our children, we’d probably go to war. We would defend our families. So why do we accept this from our own country.
[Couric] Do you think the government is behind when it comes to helping Americans reduce their sugar intake?
[Bill Clinton] Yes. I do.
[Couric] Why? Why are they doing this?
[Bill Clinton] I think that…
[Couric] Or why aren’t they doing more?
[Bill Clinton] I can’t answer that, particularly since corn has been turned into fructose. and is a sweetener for soft drinks, which I don’t think is a good use of corn. Um… but I think that America is still insufficiently alert to the damage we are doing long-term to our collective health by too much sugar intake.
[Lustig] In 2002, the World Health Organization put together a document known as TRS-916, Technical Report Series 916. And in that document they say, very specifically that sugar is a major, if not the cause of chronic metabolic disease and obesity.
[Couric] The W.H.O. is the division of the United Nations responsible for setting global Health standards.
[Man] The World Health Organization wanted to really restrict sugar intake to a level that scientists recommended. They recommended no more than 10% of calories in a diet should come from sugar. Well, the sugar groups hit the roof over that one. There was a very strong pushback in Washington by the industry.
[Couric] Senators Larry Craig and John Breau, a Republican and a Democrat, asked then secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson to stop the report.
[Peter Jennings] The Bush administration is resisting a plan. from the World Health Organization to fight obesity on an international scale. The administration says it is too tough on the food industry.
[Lustig] Tommy Thompson actually took a jet to Geneva and basically told the World Health Organization that if they published this document we would withhold the $406 million that we were going to pay them as our contribution to the W.H.O. In other words, we extorted the W.H.O. to bury this document. The sugar recommendation was deleted from most World Health Organization reports, going forward up to this very day.
[Couric] Lobbyists for the sugar industry recommended that 25% of calories in your daily diet should come from sugar, two and a half times the W.H.O. recommendation. While food nutrition labels list government-recommended daily amounts of various nutrients, today when you look on any food labels, you will not find sugar listed with a percentage for the daily recommendation.
The question is whether or not our government has been complacent or even complicit with this food debacle. And the answer is absolutely. The sugar industry’s extraordinarily powerful and there’s a lot of money involved.
[Hyman] We have a food industry that’s feeding America mostly highly processed, sugary foods that are killing us… that are making us fat and sick. This is the fundamental problem that nobody’s talking about in the society.
[Applause] Thank you, everyone. We’re all here today because we care deeply about the Health and well-being of not just these kids up here but for all kids like them all across the country. And clearly we’re determined to finally take on one of the most serious threats to their future, and that’s the epidemic of childhood obesity in America today. We’ve got some talented chefs and nutritionists here to teach us how to make healthy breakfasts. Farmers’ markets do more than just help Americans feed their families healthy meals, they help… We’re issuing a call to action. We need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you’re offering.
[Wilson] In the first months of the Obama administration she was exhorting the industry to change its products and to cut its children’s marketing and to really make substantive changes that way.
[Man] My guess is when the food industry heard Michelle Obama launch her Let’s Move campaign they reacted in terror Our kids don’t choose to make food products with tons of sugar and sodium and super-sized portions and then to have those products marketed to them everywhere they turn.
[Pollan] That’s a terrifying discussion for the food industry. So what did they do? They volunteered to help her.
I am so pleased to announce a major agreement on the part of the private sector corporations to improve the nutrition of the food that we put on the table or that we grab on the run. The Healthy Weight Commitment is a partnership between 16 corporations…
[Pollan] Pepsi, Coca-Cola… everybody’s offering to help. But you have to look at what they’re offering to do. We’re very fortunate that the first lady has taken on this initiative so people are starting to talk about it more. In the schools, we have a program where we have P.E. teachers and nutritionists working together, teaching the kids about calories in and calories out and really paying attention to what you eat and then paying attention to the exercise you do every day. Also, we went to the White House, and we did an announcement with Mrs. Obama that our companies would be pulling 1.5 trillion calories out of the marketplace in 2015. And so we’re very happy that we can provide healthier choices for moms as they’re shopping for their kids.
[Taubes] Fourteen calories a day is a single bite of food. It’s a couple sips of a soda. It’s a bite of an apple. It’s nothing. They’ve agreed to reformulate their foods in a number of ways.
[Pollan] All the food manufacturers drew her into a very long, complicated, intricate discussion about processed food, how we can make processed food better. But whatever they do to processed foods, it will be used to sell us more processed foods than we should probably eat. That’s the beauty of a processed food. You can dial up the carbs, dial down the carbs. Same with the proteins. Same with the sugars. All these changes become marketing claims designed to get you to buy more.
[Hyman] The food industry has bamboozled and hoodwinked us into thinking that there are healthier alternatives. Junk is still junk, even if it’s less junky.
[Lustig] It’s about making money. That’s their bottom line. They’re in business to make money not to keep America Healthy.
[Interviewer] And, what sorts of things will the companies be doing to reduce the calories in the marketplace?
[Woman] Well, the companies actually have three options to participate in the calorie commitment. They can change the recipe of existing products, they can introduce new products into the marketplace and they can also introduce portion-size products into the marketplace. So, if they’re… So… You’re going to be introducing new lower and zero-calorie products. Well, you have a significant transition that’s taken place in the last 10 years, and I think that, uh, most moms and dads know when you walk through the grocery store and you’re making that selection as to what products you want to buy you have options that are zero-calorie options, lower-calorie options and full-calorie options.
[Woman] It feels like we’re avoiding the question.
[Pollan] That’s the industry’s response. Change the conversation from real food and cooking and going to the farmers’ market to reengineer processed foods and exercise.
[Man] Before too long, the first lady was emphasizing more and more the “exercise” part of the Let’s Move campaign. Shouldn’t be so hard to get them to run around and play, right? This isn’t forcing them to eat their vegetables. [Audience Laughs] It’s getting them to go out there and have fun. It’s about how active our kids are. This isn’t about demonizing any industry or any, you know… It’s not about demonizing parents and it’s not about demonizing businesses.
[Pollan] From the beginning the name “Let’s Move” was not meant to evoke exercise. It was meant to evoke action on the issue. Issuing a call to action. But what a food industry person hears is their interpretation of the obesity epidemic which is that we are too sedentary. It’s our own damn fault because we’re sitting, watching TV too much. It’s not the food. And I think that was a very unfortunate message for the White House to put out because it is the food.
[Couric] And the food, especially the abundance of cheap, processed, sugar-laden products is a direct result of government policy. Mainly the United States Department of Agriculture. The U.S.D.A. was initially created to help farmers thrive by promoting their products. But in the aftermath of the McGovern Report the U.S.D.A. inherited dietary guidelines as well. When obesity became a problem, the Department of Agriculture was put into conflict of interest. Because on the one hand it was telling people to eat less in order to prevent obesity, and on the other hand it was telling people to eat more to promote consumption of American agricultural products.
[Man] They can’t do a good job of both, and because of lobbying dollars and where the money really is, it’s doing a much better job of promoting U.S. agriculture than it is in teaching us and helping us how to eat well.
[Couric] One clear example of this conflict is the curious case of cheese. Remember back in the 1980s when the food industry began taking out the fat from its products after the McGovern Report?
[Man] Women, and girls especially, became a little bit more Health-conscious and started drinking skim milk. Did you ever stop to think what happened to the fat in the milk when it became skim?
[Couric] Well, one way to make use of milk fat. is to turn it into cheese. As the demand for low fat milk increased over the years, the government found itself with a lot of cheese they didn’t know what to do with.
[Moss] lnstead of pushing the dairy industry to cut back on the production, Washington came up with this other idea. Why don’t we help the industry sell more cheese by getting people to eat more cheese?
[Female Singers] ♪ Cheese, glorious cheese
[Male Singers] ♪ Tastes mighty inviting
[Female Singers] ♪ Cheese, glorious cheese
[Male Singers] ♪ It’s so tantalizing ♪
[Moss] Dairy Management was created in 1995. to act as a marketing arm of the dairy industry.
[Couric] Financed by the farmers, with oversight by the U.S.D.A., Dairy Management helped flood the marketplace with good-looking cheese.
[Moss] Now walk into the dairy aisle, and the cheese section is bulging with packages of cheese… shredded, cubed, diced, grated… made as simple as possible for adding to other foods. Some of the things that Dairy Management did to encourage the consumption of cheese were so clever that the U.S.D.A. actually bragged on them in its annual reports to Congress. In 2007, for example, it noted how the industry was able to sell 30 million more pounds by designing things like Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites Pizza, Wendy’s Dual Double Melt sandwich concept and Burger King’s Cheesy Angus Bacon Cheeseburger. So at the same time the Agriculture Department is promoting consumption of cheese, its small unit, charged with protecting consumers and fighting obesity puts out these little brochures that encourage people to eat less cheese. If the U.S.D.A. really wants to increase cheese consumption and promote a Healthy lifestyle, here is an easy solution, cheesercize. Just grab a set of baby bells and really work those “goudes”.
[Couric] The problem is, it’s not just cheese. This conflict between public Health and promoting agriculture plays out across the board. The U.S.D.A. says to limit your sugar intake, yet has provided over $8 billion in subsidies for corn-based sweeteners since 1995. It’s fair to say that the government is subsidizing the obesity epidemic inadvertently, through its subsidies of corn which gets turned into high-fructose corn syrup and all those weird ingredients that you see in processed food, the maltodextrin, the xanthan gum, all those words you can’t pronounce. So you have the government in this crazy, schizophrenic situation, where, on the one hand they’re subsidizing precisely the foods that are making us sick, and then on the other are now on the hook to set the standards for school lunches for our kids.
[Brady] Chili cheese fries, nachos, fried chicken… all these fattening and greasy foods are just clogging up our schools. School, we’re supposed to be Healthy. My school has nachos every day for school and three-fourths of our students in high school choose nachos. All my bad decisions are when I’m at school, at lunchtime, at breakfast time. ‘Cause there’s no other choice. Either you eat or you starve. Today at lunch we had hamburgers. You either had a chance to get a cheeseburger or a sloppy joe. Neither one of them’s really that Healthy. [Maggie] Other options that they had were this place called the student store. They have a daily special like Monday is Papa John’s pizza. Tuesday is Chick-fil-A. Wednesday is Arby’s. Thursday is Pizza Hut. and Friday is McDonald’s. And then this is the slushie machine that they have.
[Pollan] The school lunch program has evolved in such a way that it really is serving the food processors much more than it is serving the students.
[Couric] The government got in the school lunch business after World War II. 1946. President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act after a huge number of military recruits were rejected because of malnutrition. On February 1 8, I will present in detail an economic program to Congress reducing the growth in government spending to reduce unemployment.
[Couric] In 1 981 , President Ronald Reagan looking to limit the role of government cut $1.46 billion out of the child nutrition budget.
[Reagan] It will propose budget cuts in virtually every department of the government.
[Couric] Many schools got rid of their cooking equipment and turned to the food industry to make lunch cheap and simple, kid-friendly favorites that could be heated and served. In 2006, 80% of all high schools operated under exclusive contracts with soda companies and by 2012 more than half of all U.S. school districts served fast food. The food industry infiltration of the schools is deplorable. The schools have become dependent on the money and it’s a bargain with the devil. Some schools have become like a 7-Eleven with books. [Applause] We are thrilled to be here with all of you as I sign the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act, a bill that’s vitally important to the Health and welfare of our kids.
[Couric] In 201 0 President Barack Obama signed the bill authorizing the U.S.D.A. to come up with new standards for the federally funded school lunch program in an effort to make it Healthier. This had the effect of possibly eliminating pizza from school. Well, the Schwan Company in Minnesota is a $3 billion private company which accounts for 70% of the pizza market in the U.S. school lunches. They could not have pizza eliminated from school. So their senator in Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar wrote a letter to the Department of Agriculture to protect their frozen pizzas in school lunches. It had kind of a complicated process where the effect was to count a slice of pizza as a vegetable.
[Man] It’s common sense. It’s not a vegetable. What’s next? Are Twinkies gonna be considered a vegetable? Rather than having a deliberative effort, we have special interests inserting these provisions into these bills contrary to the public Health. In terms of the pizza issue, we proposed a set of guidelines and Congress essentially suggested that they wanted a slightly different approach.
[Couric] Was that frustrating for you? Well, it’s a little frustrating, sure.
But at the end of the day…
Tomato paste is a vegetable?
Well, it’s… Well, uh… Not in my household, but, uh… but, I mean, somebody could probably make the, um, the scientific argument that it is. But it’s not how I perceive a vegetable.
[Couric] By 201 2, the revised regulations were issued. The U.S.D.A. increased the lunch budget for the first time in 30 years… by six cents, set a new maximum on calories and doubled the required amounts of fruits and vegetables, which still includes french fries and pizza.
[Maggie] It doesn’t look like the lunches have improved that much. They have hamburgers and cheeseburgers, chicken-fried steak and pizza today.
[Woman] We have a main dish every day that is very Healthy. We probably did about 25 of those… out of, like, 350. They kind of like… “l’ll have the pizza.” And they’d rather get fries and cookies. But you can’t choose for ’em. They have to choose for themselves.
[Woman] I don’t know any child who would rather have vegetables over a candy bar when both are placed in front of them.
[Couric] A lot of these fast food restaurants are still operating in school cafeterias all across the country. And it’s… it’s not a good thing. I don’t agree with all the new guidelines. I wish they’d gone a little further. We could cure literally 80% of the problem for children in school if we went back to school cafeterias where they prepared the food in the school.
What can I get for you, babe?
Can I have a cheeseburger, please? You sure can. Thank you.
[Carole] Have you lost any weight? [Voice Breaking] It’s just kind of aggravating… because… I mean, my weight’s not really going the way it’s supposed to go.
[Brownell] When we release our children into the care of schools, we expect that they’re not going to drink unsafe water that will make them sick, we don’t expect them to breathe unsafe air that will make them sick, and we shouldn’t expect them to eat unsafe food that will make them sick. The industry, I think, cares less about what they sell in schools than the opportunity they have to market their brand. We’re paying a very dear price for letting the food industry act at will in recruiting our children as loyal customers.
[Man] I remember I went to a preschool once and the kids were sitting on little chairs… little red-and-white chairs. that said “Coca-Cola.” [Chuckles] What do they think? Well, Coca-Cola’s good. It’s part of preschool. I should be drinking more Coca-Colas. Marketers want to start to target kids as early as they can. Studies show that children as young as two and three start to recognize brands.
[Wootan] The problem is, they don’t see any commercials for bananas, strawberries, zucchini and broccoli. It shapes the whole way they think about food, what they think food is. [Couric] There have been attempts to regulate how we market food to children since the very beginning of the obesity epidemic. 1 977… the same year as the McGovern Report. Consumer advocates lobbied the Federal Trade Commission, the government arm in charge of advertising to regulate ads for sugar-laden products. It’s grr-r-reat. The executive director of the Federal Trade Commission says the group is slowly coming to the conclusion that television advertising aimed at children is unfair.
[Man] The cumulative effect of the thousands of hours of advertising viewed by children is that kids are being told the biggest lie they will ever hear in their lives. It’s not fair to use the public airwaves to encourage children to develop Health habits and buying patterns which they will probably keep up in adulthood that are hazardous to Health.
[Male Reporter] The F.T.C.’s proposed restrictions have been defended as vital to protect the Health of America’s children and assailed as an attack on free enterprise, free speech and as a dangerous intrusion by the federal government into family life.
[Couric] Broadcasters, advertising agencies and toy companies all banded together to prevent the F.T.C. from regulating children’s television.
[Cronkite] And an official of Quaker Oats said one of the best uses of sugar he could think of was getting children to eat their cereal.
[Couric] Big Food won the battle. No regulations were put in place. But marketing to kids really took off a few years later with processed foods. And with the advent of corn syrup, a cheaper alternative to sugar, the big food makers had more money to spend on bigger sizes with better prices and on ad campaigns with corporate tie-ins and high-priced celebrity endorsements.
[Michael Jackson] ♪ You’re a whole new generation ♪ You’re a whole new generation ♪
[Couric] Now food advertising is everywhere.
I know! It tastes just like regular Snapple, doesn’t it? Dr. Pepper’s unbelievably satisfying.
[Harkin] We in this Congress have a responsibility to protect America’s children from the sophisticated, aggressive, relentless marketing of junk food to our children.
[Couric] With obesity rates skyrocketing, Congress tried again in 2004 to regulate food industry marketing to children. Big Food and Fast Food responded much like they did 20 years before. When I hear this discussion, I hear “marketing to children,” which really you’re saying “advertising to children.” and you’re also saying, “It’s all bad.” And that’s just not true. Ronald McDonald never sells to children. He informs and inspires through magic and fun.
[Brownell] Industry under threat of government regulation… will say “We can police ourselves.” And they launch into this series of self-regulatory promises that we’ll market less to children, we’ll pull our products out of schools. When you hold them accountable and study whether changes have been made, what do you find? It’s not a pretty picture. [Announcer] Keeps ’em full, keeps ’em focused.
Get a spectacular Spider-Man toy!
Made with real fruit!
[Child] Thanks, Mom.
[Couric] With the fox guarding the henhouse, children’s exposure to junk food ads, including online increased 60% from 2008 to 201 0. The Federal Trade Commission has less authority to regulate advertising to kids than it does to adults. You would think that would be just the other way around.
[Cohen] There are several studies that show that when children are watching television, especially with food commercials, they’re primed to eat more. One study had kids watching TV and they gave them a bowl of Goldfish crackers to munch on while they were watching. The kids that watched TV, while they showed also food commercials they ate 45% more Goldfish crackers compared to kids watching the same TV program with nonfood commercials.
[Kessler] I showed the data on how our neural circuits and the neural circuits of our kids are getting sensitized to all these food cues to a group of leading diabetologists and their conclusion, when they saw that and they realized that these circuits get laid down for a lifetime, is that we’re toast as a country. Hearings begin today on a proposed law that would ban giving away toys with meals high in calories, fat, sugar and salt.
[Couric] The trouble is, every time the government tries to regulate Big Food again and again the industry protects itself by sparking a larger public debate over the role of government in our lives. The food police striking again. They have a predictable script that they roll out every time these things come up. This is the most ridiculous sort of nanny-statis.
It is the nanny state.
[Woman] These nanny-state people want to tell you what to eat. “Government doesn’t belong in our private lives.” Apparently now we need government food cops. “You’re discriminating against us.” To single out one food or beverage. The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg wants to outlaw what he calls super-sized sodas and other sugary drinks. “You don’t need the police. Just look at all the good-guy things we’re doing.
[Woman] You know what Ronald McDonald is also known for. For 35 years he’s been known for the Ronald McDonald Houses. Exactly. The script is so reliable now and the lobbying dollars that are aimed at legislators from the food industry are enormous and as a consequence they’re pretty good at fighting things off. Who should be making the decisions what to eat and school choice and everything else. Should it be government, or should it be the parents? It should be the parents. [Slurping] The fact that parents have a role to play does not change the fact that targeting young children is simply immoral.
[Simon] I think we need to really get straight in this country the difference between parental responsibility and the corporation’s role in exploiting the vulnerabilities of a young child.
[Edgar] He’s been having many more problems now with his legs. He’s going through therapy, and he’s still having a hard time with it.
So you’ve been having knee pain?
[Joe] This bariatric program came to the hospital, and my doctor considered me for surgery that’ll change my life for the better. I don’t want it. I kinda need it. I’ve gotten to a point in my weight where if l… if I keep gaining weight like I am, I’m gonna probably be dead by 20. The surgery has complications. There’s no question about it. But as we’ve talked about, you always look at what the risk is of doing the surgery and compare it to what the risk is of not doing the surgery. And we’ve all agreed that the risk of not doing the surgery is that we’re gonna decrease your life span, increase your risk of diabetes and all of these complications. And so we know that even though there’s risk with the surgery, there’s a bigger risk of not doing it. Okay? I’ve never heard of, you know, a 1 5-year-old having this surgery. Um, you know… I guess I’m still kind of against it. Thing could go wrong, and… then I wouldn’t have my Joe. That wouldn’t be right. I would feel that one.
[Michael Bloomberg] It’s the people who are least able to know what’s good for their Health.. who are the ones that certain industries cater to and try to focus their advertising toward.
[Family Speaking Spanish]
[Bloomberg] We’re selling these products to the people who are most vulnerable and they’re also the people that society has to provide Health care for because they don’t have the money to do it themselves.
[Edgar] I didn’t even want to be at the hospital and see him going through that. It sounds selfish, but, um… [Voice Breaking] It was hard. But, uh, he-he’s… a tough little guy. Yeah.
[Medical Staff Chattering]
[Ludwig] There’s probably a limited role for gastric bypass, or bariatric surgery in the most extreme circumstance to avoid life-threatening complication. But what does it say about our society if we would rather send children to such mutilating procedures but yet lack the political will to properly fund school nutrition and ban junk food advertising to children. It reflects a systematic political failure. We’re the richest society in the world. We’ve failed because we’ve placed private profit and special interests ahead of public Health.
[Brady] This is a vitality medical center. Fixing to get our body scans.
[Brady] It’s hard for us teenagers to try to be Healthy ’cause you see all your friends eating fattening chili cheese fries and nachos and all this fattening fried chicken and all these fattening, greasy foods, and they’re skinny, and they look good. My brother can eat all he wants and still be skinny, and I look at him and say, “Well, he can do it. Why can’t l?” And that… I hold on to that. And that’s how l-l don’t lose weight. Many people think that if you’re thin, you’re Healthy but that’s not necessarily true. You can be fat on the inside and skinny on the outside or metabolically obese normal weight. It’s very dangerous, and it leads to all the same consequences as being fat, such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia and diabetes.
[Lustig] Dr. Jimmy Bell, who is a neuroimager in London, England, coined the term “Tofi”… T-O-F-l. Thin on the outside, fat on the inside. Because when you slide somebody into an M.R.l. and you actually visualize the fat they might as well be obese. – There! X-ray! – Yeah. Nuke sign.
[Couric] Brady and his brothers went to the doctor for DEXA scans, a type of X-ray that measures internal body fat. The beauty of it is, you can see where the fat is. Because a lot of fat is distributed in different places and the worst fat is the belly fat. Kids who are normal weight should be between 1 0 and 20% belly fat.
[Couric] Brady’s results were by far the worst… 47% of his body is fat, most of it in his belly, which is 60% fat.
[Hyman] The belly fat is a dangerous, lethal fat. And his insulin levels are high. The insulin is the fat storage hormone.
[Couric] While his youngest brother, Nicholas, had normal results, 1 0-year-old Chandler had 22% belly fat and the 1 9-year-old, Joseph, had 28%.
[Hyman] Almost all of these skinny-fat kids are prediabetic. Even though the junk food doesn’t make them fat, necessarily, it makes them sick. The question is, do you have it? You might, and you don’t know. Based on the statistics we know that 30% of America is obese. Let’s talk about the thin people. Up to 40% of these people have the same metabolic dysfunction. They’re just not obese. So when you do the math, that’s more than half the U.S. population. This is not just a problem of the obese. This is a problem of everybody. [Nestle] There are so many industries that make profits off of people being unhealthy that it’s in their interest to have people continue to be unhealthy. And so that’s why you don’t see an enormous national effort to try to improve the quality of the American diet or people’s food choices.
[Interviewer] ls that why you see Health insurance companies buying stock in fast food companies? That is exactly why you see Health insurance companies buying stock in fast food companies? They’re just covering their bets.
[Hyman] Unless we address this as a society and stop blaming the fat person, we’re gonna be in big trouble. We’re gonna have huge Health consequences and huge economic consequences, as well.
[Couric] We’ve been down this road before. This isn’t the first time our children have been sold a bill of goods that leads to addiction and disease. What’s been the great public Health success to date? It’s tobacco.
[Woman] ♪ Smooth and fresh ♪ Is the Newport taste ♪
[Kessler] We used to view the cigarette as our friend, something that was sexy, that was glamorous, something that we wanted. What did we do with tobacco? We demonized the tobacco industry. We changed how we perceived that product.
[Couric] We knew as early as 1950 that there was a link between smoking and lung cancer. Do you swear that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
[All] I do.
[Couric] But Big Tobacco would deny the science for the next 50 years. Cigarettes and nicotine clearly do not meet the classic definitions of addiction.
[Brownell] The public finally saw that they were doing deceptive and misleading things and so we took them on. Government took them on. The media took them on. It’s been 30 years since the first report linked smoking and cancer. There’s disturbing news about teenagers and smoking.
[Couric] The U.S. was the first to require warning labels on every cigarette pack. But we didn’t stop there. A number of decades ago there was something around called the Fairness Doctrine and for every tobacco ad that got run the networks had to free up time for anti-tobacco advertisement. Smoke now, pay later. Whatever you do, just don’t smoke.
[Brownell] The tobacco industry found it was getting battered by these advertisements and said we will voluntarily take our advertising off television.
[TV: Announcer] Come to where the flavor is.
[Couric] It wasn’t long before smoking ads were removed from almost all public space. And with greater public awareness smoking was banned from all airlines. And as early as 1975 individual states began regulating smoking in public places and taxing packs of cigarettes. After we banned it, all of Western Europe went smoke-free. You would tell me in a million years the Irish, the Italians, the Spanish, the English, the French… they don’t smoke indoors anymore.
[Kessler] Today we view the cigarette for what it is, a deadly, disgusting, addictive product.
[Couric] As a result of this critical change in perception, the number of American high schoolers who smoke has been cut in half in just the last 20 years. Where would we be if we hadn’t acted?
[Announcer] The Flintstones has been brought to you by Winston, America’s best-selling, best-tasting filter cigarette. ♪ Winston tastes good like a cigarette should ♪ Junk food companies are acting very much like tobacco companies did 30 and 40 years ago. I need your Fruity Pebbles! Really fruity! [Roars] Post Fruity Pebbles cereal, part of this complete breakfast. Years from now we’re gonna say, “l can’t believe we let them get away with that.” There is no evidence that the consumption of soft drinks in secondary schools is inconsistent with sound nutrition science The argument you’re making is to advance the sales of your soft drinks with the hopes that these students will get used to them enough… I hesitate to use the word “hooked on ’em” enough. I’m suggesting, Senator, that in a well-balanced diet we all need to consume two liters of liquid. Soft drinks can certainly supply part of that liquid intake and I would reject entirely any argument that they are in any way harmful for you. Sometimes I just wanna say, “Don’t you have any shame at all?” Isn’t there something inside of you that says, “You know, what we’re doing is not right.” They have to know, just like the tobacco companies. How could these people sleep at night for years knowing they were lying through their teeth about tobacco and cancer and yet they just kept pushing those tobacco products out there? It’s the same way with big food companies I just… I don’t know how… I-I don’t know how they can live with themselves.
[Bittman] Soda is the cigarettes of the 21 st century, and the sooner we get that clear the sooner we get rid of these idiotic arguments about free speech allows us to sell things that are poisonous.
[Man] The obesity epidemic, the diseases that fast food places… hamburgers, soda pop, whatever… cause. We’ve had this information for decades… and we’ve failed to act on it until now it’s catastrophic. I’m trying… I’m trying to save my life… and protect myself from dying of heart attack, seizures, anything… diabetes, anything. I just want y’all to realize… that y’all killin’ yourselves. ‘Cause I’ve already realized it. I’m just making sure y’all do, you guys do.
[Couric] At our current rate over 95% of all Americans will be overweight or obese in two decades. By 2050, one out of every three Americans will have diabetes.
[Carmona] As we look to the work force of the future, where will the soldiers and sailors and first-responders… cops, firemen… Where will they come from when we have a generation of children that will be physically unfit and saddled with a lot of disease that’s all preventable.
[Lustig] The financial aspects of this are staggering. 75% of our Health care dollar goes to the maintenance or treatment of chronic metabolic disease.
[Karp] If you think the national debt is a problem right now, wait till you see the tsunami of debt that’s coming from the Health care impact of obesity. It’s going to be an enormous burden that we are going to be placing on the shoulders of our children. I want people to know that childhood obesity isn’t as simple as TV and the press make it seem. And even Mrs. Obama. It’s like, no matter how hard you try, it’s always going to be an ongoing battle.
[Taubes] When Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” campaign, she said this isn’t about demonizing any food industry, which is a very politically sensible thing to do. The problem is, if you want to cure obesity, you have to demonize some food industries. Let’s move! Let’s move! Let’s move!
[Brownell] I think Michelle Obama has been a wonderful force in the nation’s attempt to address childhood obesity. Um, but my guess is that she and other people in the administration have to be aware of the lobbying might of the food industry and have to go easier on them than they may want to. I hope with time, because of the public support for these initiatives that the politicians will have the courage to take on the industry the way it really needs to happen.
[Bittman] There are other countries now who have prohibited junk food marketing to kids stopped serving junk food in schools, started taxing soda… These are things that l’d like to see us leading the way on. Instead, we’re leading the way on producing the world’s deadliest diet and basically exporting it to other countries.
[Harkin] I think the thing that has frustrated me more than anything else in my now almost 30-year campaign against obesity and trying to get Healthful lifestyles. The most frustrating thing is just the way the deck is just stacked against being Healthy.
[Wootan] Right now Healthy eating is like swimming upstream. If you want to eat better, you have to work so hard against the food environment which is always pushing you to eat more. I think the attitude that someone else is gonna change it is the wrong attitude. If we want better conditions each of us has to do something to make that happen.
[Wootan] We need to come together as a society to protect our children just like we have with seat belt laws and car seat laws. We’re not gonna tell anybody what they’re gonna feed their kids. We’re just gonna try to make it easier for parents to do what they already want to do, which is feed their child more Healthfully.
[Couric] Some people are already trying to change the environment and improve the conditions for our children. There are even some kids who are taking on their own schools. in order to remove sugar-sweetened beverages from the cafeteria. There are also revolutionary food fighters who are not waiting on government action.
[Jamie Oliver] I want to tell you about what is in some of these products.
Four scoops of sugar.
[Couric] They’re educating kids on the toxic effects of sugar. They are all the same. Reimagining how you can feed kids real food on a budget. By serving the local fresh beans we’re saving about $4,000 a year. Our business model is to go into underserved areas into food deserts and try to make them food oases and make sure we bring access to fresh, affordable Healthy food.
[Couric] Many of these places have seen modest decreases in their childhood obesity rate.
[Harkin] So we’ve made some progress. It’s not as much as we’d like, it’s not as much as we need but therein lies some hope.
[Brownell] This is supposed to be the first generation of American children expected to lead shorter lives than their parents did. So we have to ask ourselves, what legacy are we leaving our children? What kind of conditions are we exposing them to that would make this come true? It’s a call to action to do something pretty courageous against this problem.
[Couric] What if every can of soda came with a warning label from the Surgeon General? What if fast food chains were banned from all public schools? What if every time you looked at a nutrition label you’d actually see the percentage next to sugar? What if every time a celebrity sold a soft drink, they also had to pitch a vegetable? How would academics improve? How much more productive would we become? How much money and how many lives could we save?
[Clinton] I think the government has a leading role to play here. We just got a long way to go. Now, you can wait around for the ideal day when government regulation will be perfect. Meanwhile, you gotta keep working the food industry to get them to change. But you have to change the diet of America. That’s the most important thing. The exercise is important. All these things are important. But we’ve gotta change the way we produce and consume food.
[Tinna] My mom always said people make time for what they want to. It’s a matter of priority, you know. Being willing to put forth the effort and the time that it takes to change. The kids’ Health, my Health, my husband’s Health, definitely more important than any chocolate I have in the cabinet, more than any piece of cake. And even as much as I want to take the chocolate and hide it, it still has made me think. I’ve gotta choose. I’ve gotta choose between helping Brady or… or getting rid of the chocolate. I know what’s more important in here. It’s just hard. But it’s a matter of priority and I really want to change.
[Tinna] This is our new recipe we’re fixin’ to taste. I am excited. I can’t believe how different I feel. And I’m so happy that, um, a light switch just came on. It’s not an easy transition to real food, but it starts locally. It starts, really, as local as our fork. And everybody has a choice three times a day what they put on that thing. The most important thing you can do… and it’s challenging for many people… is cook real food. You can forget about nutrients. You don’t have to worry about sugars. If you cook real food, your family will be eating much better.
[Ludwig] Does it look like it comes from nature? Or is it a product with a long list of artificial ingredients? That’s a distinction between real and fake foods that even a five-year-old can get.
[Tinna] Lot of sugar, huh? Third ingredient. That’s not real.
[Brady] I thought I knew the way it was supposed to be but in truth I had no idea what the truth was. And I think so many kids in America don’t even know what it really means to eat Healthy.
[Tinna] Nicholas, you are eating asparagus, I’m so proud of you.
[Brady] This is the way we’re supposed to eat all the time. Not just for a diet or detox. We’re supposed to eat like this for the rest of our life. And that’s what I want it to be.
[Tinna] John is eating his sweet potatoes.
[Couric] It started out as such a small story… about weight, diet and exercise. For the majority of kids, there is no happy ending. It’s time for a new story about the food we eat… and the environment we want for our children.
[Kessler] This has to be about the food, not the weight. I mean, why don’t diets work? Sure, for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days I can deprive myself, I can lose the weight. But then I go back in the environment, I get cued again, my brain gets hijacked. So of course I’m going to gain the weight back. Unless we dramatically change the environment, take away all these cues, we’re never gonna be able to protect our kids.
[Man] ♪ How long have you waited ♪ For someone to come to your rescue? ♪ Called up and calculated ♪ Some kind of hope to hang on to ♪ Will the wait be over soon? ♪ Feelin’ so fascinated ♪ Set on a course to continue ♪ Discussed and demonstrated ♪ With all the sight to see right through ♪ Another world created ♪ Another life belongs to you ♪ When you’re surrounded by ♪ Something strange ♪ And so brand-new ♪ It’s not complicated ♪ It’s just another point of view ♪ So now let’s celebrate it ♪ A change is so long overdue ♪ And we should be home by now ♪ And we should be home ♪ By now ♪ I know we’d find a way ♪ Forever starts today ♪ We should be home by now ♪ If time permitted ♪ I know we’d find a way ♪ Forever starts today ♪ If time permitted ♪ I know we’d find a way ♪ Forever starts today ♪ Forever starts today ♪ ♪♪