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Organic Consumers Association

An Unexpected Reason Americans Are Overweight

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Appetite For a Change page.

The documentary Fed Up, released in theaters on May 9, untangles the roots of obesity in America's youth. Directed by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Katie Couric, Fed Up does not shrink from telling viewers how the government's decades-long capitulation to Big Food and its lobbyists has fostered an epidemic of excess pounds. The national focus on diet, diet foods and exercise is not abating the obesity epidemic and actually making it worse, charges the film.

Examples of capitulation to Big Food are many in the film. In 1977, the McGovern Report warned about an impending obesity epidemic and suggested revised USDA guidelines to recommend people eat less foods high in fat and sugar. The egg, sugar and other Big Food industries, seeing a risk to profits, demanded that guidelines not say "eat less" of the offending foods but rather eat more "low-fat" foods. Ka-ching. They won over the objection of Sen. McGovern.

In 2006, the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) released similar food recommendations and then Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy G. Thompson actually flew to Geneva, according to Fed Up, to threaten WHO that if the guidelines stood, the US would withdraw its WHO financial support. Again, Big Food won.

The U.S. government plays both sides of the obesity street--admonishing people to eat right while pushing the foods that make them fat--because of the USDA's double mission of protecting the nation's health and protecting the health of the nation's farmers. According to Fed Up, the low fat movement allowed the USDA to maximize those split loyalties.       


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