May 30, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Fed Up' shows us how we're eating our way into oblivion

'Fed Up' looks at the link between sugar and obesity. (RADiUS-TWC)

Americans are hooked on a white crystal substance more addictive than cocaine. It annually causes untold deaths, has spread disease across the land and will cost billions and billions of health care dollars in the coming decades.

What’s worse is multinational corporations are making huge profits from this addictive substance while, thanks largely to lobbyists, government either turns its head away from the situation or, far worse, facilitates its dispersal.

The substance is called sugar. And the very real dangers it poses for both the present and future are the central subject of “Fed Up,” a hard-to-argue-with documentary that tracks the none-too-subtle ways in which food manufacturers are essentially poisoning the world.

Narrated and co-produced by Katie Couric, “Fed Up” is hardly a hysterical hippie cry for raw grain consumption. In fact, it even puts Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program in its cross-hairs, pegging it as a panacea and distraction from the larger problems at hand.

Those problems are pretty straightforward. Between 1980-2000, the number of obese people in America doubled. The number of gym memberships also doubled, so it’s pretty obvious we aren’t going to exercise our way out of this epidemic.

Not that exercise isn’t good, it’s just you’d have to spend most of your life doing it to work off the hyper-sweetened caloric loads that processed foods commonly hold. And processed foods are what most of us eat these days.

Advertisements touting them are targeted at small children, so they grow up constantly craving a sugar rush. When kids get to school age, they find most school lunches now come from fast-food franchises, which also favor and promote sugary, unhealthy food.

“Fed Up” goes over all this while following some obese kids. There’s a young girl who exercises regularly and can’t lose a pound. There are a couple of guys wrestling with constant food cravings. And then there’s the 15-year-old kid in Houston who weighs 400 pounds. He ends up getting bariatric surgery. At 15.

Appropriately, “Fed Up” doesn’t sugarcoat things. These kids don’t have inspirational stories. Nobody drops 100 pounds and becomes the prom king or queen. These kids have desperate stories.

And, as the film makes clear, they’re hardly alone. Twenty years ago, Type II diabetes brought on by obesity in adolescents or children was unheard of. Now it’s increasingly common. If we’ve doubled the number of obese Americans in the past 20-30 years, what’s going to happen over the next 20-30 years?

Waistlines will get bigger while life spans grow shorter and the costs of dealing with obesity-related conditions spiral out of control.

“Fed Up” places the blame for this on the corporations promoting and selling unhealthy food, arguing they are promoting and profiting from addiction, but a certain amount of willful ignorance and destructive self-indulgence has to be factored in as well.

We are eating ourselves into oblivion; talk about an inconvenient truth. When will we notice? More importantly, when will we do something about it?

'Fed Up'

GRADE: B+

Rated PG for thematic elements including smoking images, and brief mild language

Running time: 92 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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