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posted: 5/22/2014 5:45 AM

'Fed Up' takes on weighty issues of food industry

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  • Video: "Fed Up" trailer


Mini-review: 'Fed Up'

Stephanie Soechtig's potentially life-changing documentary "Fed Up" has the look and feel of an extended "60 Minutes" investigative news segment. Except that it's much, much more.

Narrated by Katie Couric, "Fed Up" takes on the weighty issues of childhood obesity and the power of the food industry to dictate government policies on public welfare.

This is thorough, old-fashioned investigative reporting that will push you to check the nutrition labels on everything you and your family members buy to consume.

Couric begins the doc by sounding the alarm about childhood obesity, interviewing students struggling to control their weight, even though they're dieting and exercising.

What's wrong? "Fed Up" supplies a multifaceted answer, beginning by debunking ideas about the old "calories in/calories out" concept (you can eat what you want as long as you burn an equal number of calories), the value of "no-fat" products ("no-fat" means "double the sugar") and the belief that our government health officials are guarding our well-being (they're not).

"Fed Up" shoots a lot of targets in 82 minutes (among them Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" health initiative that mysteriously dropped all mention of diet and sugar restrictions during her husband's second term in office).

But its biggest bull's-eye is the sugar industry, one so powerful that it forced regulators to eliminate the "daily recommended allowance" for sugar on product labels because of the embarrassingly excessive amounts of sugar in some products. (Check it out: Pick up any food item and look for the grams of sugar. No "percentage of daily value" listed, unlike fat and sodium.)

"Fed Up" gives us a primer in nutrition, pointing out how so-called "natural sweeteners" create the same demand for bodily insulin as refined sugar, resulting in higher instances of diabetes.

Which has more sugar: a glass of orange juice or an equivalent amount of Coke? (Trick question. They're the same and the movie explains why.)

Isn't eating six ounces of nuts the same as eating six ounces of ice cream? (No, and the movie explains why.)

In reviews of docs like "Fed Up," it's easy just to pass on the information and forget to point out things such as how Soechtig utilizes emotionally manipulative music (a favorite Oprah device), suggesting that she doesn't fully trust her reporting to engage us on its own.

Fat chance.

"Fed Up" plays at the Century Centre, Chicago. Rated PG. 82 minutes.    ½

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