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What is this sweetener that many unknowingly crave in their modern diet? The sweet component known as sugar has successfully been rooted in today’s society a necessity. An ingredient that most everyone loves. Some may even claim that consuming sugar equates to the same effects that an addiction has on the brain. Studies are now suggestion links to numerous health diseases and how sugar became a staple ingredient in our diets for the last century. The documentary The Secrets of Sugar, directed by Neil Docherty and narrated by Gillian Findlay, reveals to its audience the hard reality of correlations and direct links of the impactful truth of sugar influencing our body’s natural functions. The film targets an audience that is directed towards the everyday individual. It is towards any individual that goes out and buys groceries and is not completely aware of the number of grams per serving of sugar that is being dumped into their bodies. It is for those consumers who are ignorant of how to properly read a nutrition label. It is for the individuals who have become diabetic etc. and are asking themselves what may be the underlying cause of their disease. It is for the everyday person who did not know that the sugar industry has been playing its consumers for decades and now can make an informed choice. Our society has mainly become focused on the amount of fat in our products and has neglected the consumption of sugar becoming an epidemic within North America. This documentary goes on to express the impact of how the sugar industry prevents to bring public awareness on the suggestive health side effects of consuming sugar and the need for social change to be ignited for the people. The Secrets of Sugar is a great thought-provoking documentary because it examines evidence to support the repercussions of consuming high-sugar eating habits, while also encouraging the need for social change within the food industry.
Currently, “great” and “thought-provoking” documentaries may be distinguished by bringing to light a topic that enlightens a viewer’s awareness where ignorance previously took residence. It should open the viewer’s capacity to interpret the effect that social institutions have on the macro-levels down to a relatable level for the individual. “Thought-provoking” documentaries give silent topics a voice to be heard by many and to ignite the spark of curiosity and/or need to create change for the general improvement of mankind. Both types of documentaries require strong cited sources to be utilized in the film to bring awareness to the public for social change. The quality and credibility of these sources will help set a foundation for the film’s audience to agree with the claim the film makes. As well as bringing credible evidence to the argument will only increase the quality and value of the content being discussed. Now, many in the film might argue for social changes, such as Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, who specializes in childhood obesity as a professor at the University of California, San Francisco or British nutritionist John Yudkin, who have both done research connecting links of society’s sugar eating habits becoming a pandemic. As medical health diseases due to diet continue to rise and become a larger problem within society, it is crucial to educate as many individuals as possible on the importance of consuming too much sugar within their diet. Until then, many people are so unaware of the marketing and advertising strategy that is directed upon them by all businesses to increase uninformed shopping impulses, that without those interferences may not have even considered buying that product. The food industry has done and will continually keep society under its thumb. They are the ones who have kept the truth from consumers to be able to make their own educated decisions in what products to buy that will benefit their own health. All humans should know how excessive sugar affects their bodies, how long the food industry has been hiding that knowledge from them, and that they are the ones who can bring social change to help benefit the current and future generations’ overall health.
In the film, Docherty takes the opportunity to set a calm tone for the film, regardless of the heavy subject discussed, by implementing skills of precise film and music editing. When filming, Docherty focused on making the interactions between the camera and their interviewee approachable. Throughout all the interviews, the lighting is kept bright and the subject is kept focused. When needed to add more emphasis, the setting changes to accompany the discussion being held. For example, When Findlay is being shown the enclosed documents from The Sugar Industry by Cristin Couzens, the setting is studious in nature, with a wooden table and a backdrop of bookshelves (The Secrets of Sugar). This setting gives the audience a subtle push that the topic being discussed in this scene is serious and not of trivial matter. Docherty also uses the musical score throughout the film to inadvertently create a distressing mood for its audience. For example, when Findlay starts disclosing the information of the 1999 Minneapolis meet-up among the food industry executives, the music sets the tone for the audience that what comes next will not be beneficial to society (The Secrets of Sugar). Docherty used different film methods as a means to relate an approach towards the audience. By doing so, Docherty created himself as a credible director that his audience could trust to successfully bring information, regardless of how heavy the subject matter.
Sugar has been a major part of human diets for many years and it has not been until the last several decades where new evidence about the dangers of sugar, the consequences it has on our health, and the problems that are linked to sugar intake became prevalent. The film introduces an average family of four, known as the Breedon’s, who like many parents, are shopping for their family, keeping in mind the budget as well as the convenience of quickly made meals. This family, like many others, is so unaware of the excessive amounts of sugar-laden within so many common grocery products, “A lot of what they eat is processed. They assume it’s nutritious, but they’ve never paid much attention to what’s in the food they buy, have no idea how much sugar is hidden in it” (The Secrets of Sugar). The film depicts a relatable situation for the audience of grocery shopping with commonly bought products, and with Registered Dietitian, Jaclyn Pritchard goes over the shocking amount of sugar that is revealed within the Breedon’s weekly diet. Director Docherty takes this family as an example to show how blatantly unaware the average individual is to the amounts of sugar hidden within processed foods and Bruce Bradley, former food industry executive, further comments, “Sugar is one of the essential basic ingredients used in 99% of the processed foods out there” (The Secrets of Sugar). This film demonstrates how many are unaware of how much sugar they are taking in and the damage they are producing upon the health of their own body. Bloodwork was taken and analyzed from the Breedon family by Dr. Daniel Flanders, who then says after the results came back, “His [Jonathan Breedon] results suggest that he’s pre-diabetic. That his levels have been high and that if we don’t make some changes to his lifestyle soon, diabetes is coming” (The Secrets of Sugar). The film uses the evidence of the Breedon’s usual lifestyle diet, along with their bloodwork to give a harsh reality that they, much like many of the population, are headed down a lousy path of health problems. This example possibly provokes the audience to take an internal examination of realizing what it is that they are actually consuming and be equally shocked and sickened just like the Breedon’s upon their discovery. That all the added sugar hidden in their diet can be leading them to health diseases or potentially an early grave.
Docherty brings in several sources who are experts in their field to give their professional opinions on the matter, the most prominent being Dr. Robert Lustig. Lustig has become a well-known advocate investigating the scientific research of the links between sugar and our health, “Which is worse the sugar or the fat? The sugar a thousand times over” (The Secrets of Sugar). Utilizing Lustig’s knowledge, through his research at UCSF, the film brings credibility to their argument that the audience can trust, “And it’s been shown that fructose consumption changes the way your brain recognizes energy, all in a negative way. You basically think you’re starving even though your fat cells are sending a signal that they are full. You also get an increased reward signal. Continues appetite, continues more fructose, more carbohydrate, generating more insulin resistance. You can see you generate a vicious cycle of consumption and disease: hypertension, inflammation, hepatic insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, dyslipidemia, muscle insulin resistance, obesity, continues consumption. Looks like Metabolic Syndrome to me” (“Sugar: The Bitter Truth”). The film brings in the work of the late John Yudkin, who was a potential leading source that wanted to bring the truth about sugar to the public, “In our first experiments with nineteen young men, the sugar-rich diet produced an increase in blood triglyceride in all of them after two weeks… they put on about five pounds in weight, the level of insulin in the blood rose, and there was an increase in the stickiness of the platelets”. The film hosted an array of other doctors or nutritionists who are continually conducting their own research and most all are coming to similar conclusions that excessive amounts of sugar are slowly killing the human body. The scientific studies mentioned in the film ties in with the value that the audience has on the well-being of their own life. The film wants to establish with the audience how easily there has long been a correlation between consuming refined sugar and our health.
The film continues to remain balanced when presenting an opposing view by bringing a representative from companies such as PepsiCo, General Mills, & Kraft to help bring perhaps another perspective on the issue. Findlay interviewed in Phyllis Tanaka, Food and Consumer Products Canada (representing the companies mentioned previously) and gives the opposing side of the argument an opportunity to clarify some of Findlay’s concerns, “At this point in time, I am comfortable to say that the science isn’t there to support a role in chronic disease” (The Secrets of Sugar). Although Findlay remains composed and voiced some other concerns about people being unaware of how to properly read a nutrition label, Tanaka came across as apathetic towards the issue and unaccustomed to being placed in that predicament. As the narrator, Findlay wanted Tanaka to have the opportunity to be transparent and give an explanation if applicable. The film did not go to such lengths as to paint an extremely negative perspective of the opposing side, but the evidence (both the studies and documents) clearly played a part in persuading the audience to trust the view that is more transparent and credible in their resources.
This documentary is worth watching as a starting point for its audience as it will open a door that many did not even realize were there. The film will bring awareness to the audience about how easily sugar is manipulated into almost every single product consumed by humans. This film is able to dip the viewer’s toes into the effects of sugar that goes much deeper when they continue to take up the opportunity to research on their own to make an informed decision. Docherty briefly touches upon the actions that The Sugar Industry has taken to blind society’s idea on their knowledge about the health dangers of an excessive amount of consumed sugar since the 1970s. Through the found documents (memos etc. from The Sugar Association to top food industry executives) uncovered by Cristin Couzens, it shows that The Sugar Association secretly funded a rebuttal paper (in response to Yudkin’s book Pure, White, and Deadly) of their own called, “Sugar in the Diet of Man” that claimed sugar was healthy and important in society’s diet (The Secrets of Sugar). This film goes on discussing while referring to evidence later in time revealed from Michael Mudd, on how the food industry has knowingly and actively kept the public in the dark on a substance that they use to gain for profit. This film gives its viewers an opportunity to witness a drop of information that has been kept hidden that can continue to open a gate where social change is available. Society has the power to make changes and this film gives that knowledge back to society to make an informed decision, “If only a small fraction of what is already known about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned”.
Considering all that is presented within The Secrets of Sugar, the film makes a strong case of an intriguing argument that expresses the need for all to become mindful and knowledgeable of consuming amounts of added sugar in their diets along with the notion to change food policies within the food industry to benefit their own health. A thought-provoking documentary wants its audience to contemplate and to be intrigued by the topic issue. It is meant to have a lasting effect that does not equate to a sedentary society, but a society that is cognizant and then willing to start a fundamental social change if necessary.
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