SUGAR COATED / Documentary


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How did the food industry get us to stop asking the question: is sugar toxic? It starts with a secret PR campaign dating back to the 1970s. For 40 years, Big Sugar deflected all threats to its multi-billion-dollar empire while sweetening the world’s food supply. As obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates skyrocket, doctors are treating the first generation of children with fatty liver disease. The sugar industry is again under siege. They dodged the bullet once. Will they do it again?

It seems impossible to believe that people need convincing that an excess of sugar causes obesity and diabetes. But like Big Tobacco, Big Sugar has succeeded in manipulating information so the public stays in the dark.

In fact, that’s part of the problem with Michèle Hozer’s documentary. Our collective sugar addiction, and the industry that promotes it, is too much like tobacco addiction (indeed, many scientists pretending sugar is harmless worked for cigarette sellers), and the narrative in Sugar Coated is a lot like that of Merchants Of Doubt, the doc about climate-change deniers.

Hozer has all the right talking heads, including authors Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat) and Robert Lustig (Fat Chance) and researcher Cristin Kearns, who got her mitts on files proving Big Sugar was waging an all-out campaign to dupe the public. The information is essential, and the story of how the sugar industry managed to get the Heart & Stroke Foundation into its back pocket instructive.

But though the subject itself is new, the story isn’t.

Fortunately, Hozer includes spectacular footage of food factories and bakeries churning out treats that look so yummy, you become aware of how easily we’re seduced. It’s a smart, cinematic way of making the point.

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