10 Things We Learned From “Fed Up”

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We all know obesity is an epidemic and that health issues, from diabetes to heart disease, are skyrocketing. But what if everything we’ve been told about food and exercise is wrong?

That’s the premise behind the new documentary, Fed Up, executive produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David. The film features top food experts like Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Robert Lustig, and Mark Bittman arguing that the food industry’s supposed “solutions” for fighting obesity and disease are not only making the problems worse–they’re creating the problems. The film also dives deep into issues surrounding the government’s involvement in subsidizing and endorsing the sale and marketing of unhealthy products to adults and children.

“To make any sustainable dietary change we have to understand why change is warranted to begin with,” says nutritionist, Karyn Duggan, CNC. “If I could get all of my patients to see Fed Up, then I could spend all my time with them focused on how to bring their health goals to fruition because they’d already have a very clear understanding of why the changes are necessary.”

Here are just 10 of the mind-blowing things we learned from Fed Up.

1. Exercise May Not Be the Best Weight Loss Solution

Between the 1980s (the height of America’s Jane Fonda/aerobics/jazzercise obsession) and 2000, fitness club memberships doubled)–but so did obesity rates. Now experts are questioning whether the age-old “calories in, calories out” philosophy is really accurate. As author Gary Taubes puts it, “We’re not going to exercise our way out of the obesity epidemic.”

2. All Calories Are Not Created Equal

As we learn in the film, 160 calories worth of almonds come with a healthy dose of fiber, which slows digestion and keeps blood sugar levels from spiking. 160 calories worth of soda, however, are absorbed straight into the liver, causing a “sugar rush” and the immediate conversion of sugar to fat. Both options are 160 calories, but they create drastically different reactions within the body.

3. Childhood Cases of Type 2 Diabetes Have Exploded

Type 2 diabetes, once known as “adult onset diabetes” was virtually unheard of in children just a few decades ago. In 1980, there were zero childhood cases of the condition. In 2010, there were 57,636.

4. The 1977 McGovern Report Was a Food Industry Game Changer

When Senator George McGovern recommended Americans consume less sugar and fat-laden products, the egg, sugar, and meat industries were less than thrilled. They banded together and rejected the statements. The recommendations were then rewritten to encourage consumers to buy more lean products as opposed to less of the rich ones. The food industry adapted by reengineering thousands of products to be low-fat.

5. “Fat-Free” Comes at a Cost

When you remove fat from food, you have a big problem: The food tastes horrible. To compensate for the lack of flavor, food manufacturers add plenty of sugar. Some products that are labeled “low-fat” actually contain twice the sugar of the original, full-fat versions.

6. No Matter What It’s Called, It’s Still Sugar

Sugar has tons of other monikers, and the body processes them all the same way. Whether you see “sugar,” “high-fructose corn syrup,” “fructose,” “dextrose,” “turbinado sugar,” “sorbitol,” “raw sugar,” or some other variation on the label–it’s still sugar.

7. Sugar Shows Up in Sneaky Places

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 6 to 8 teaspoons of sugar per day (1 teaspoon equals 4 grams). Even if you’re not pouring the sweet stuff on your cereal, it shows up in sneaky places like spaghetti sauce and salad dressing (both can contain about 3 teaspoons per serving). A breakfast of orange juice and processed cereal can put you over the daily limit in one meal.

8. Sugar is a Drug

Brain scans indicate that sugar consumption fires up the same areas of the brain that are triggered by cocaine, and according to Dr. Mark Hyman, it’s eight times as addictive as the narcotic.

9. Junk Food Qualifies as Health Food in Schools

French fries and pizza are currently considered “vegetables” in school lunches.

10. You Can Be Thin on the Outside and Carry Dangerous Fat Inside

The long-term damage of processed food consumption isn’t always visible. The acronym “TOFI” stands for “Thin Outside Fat Inside” and refers to individuals who seemingly “get away” with eating whatever they want but are hiding dangerous amounts of fat inside their bodies.

Feeling alarmed or angry? You can do something about it. Take the Fed Up Challenge by going sugar-free for 10 days.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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