Sugar Coated delivers what it promises - an indictment of the tactics of the sugar industry which has resulted in a current health crisis. Diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic problems have skyrocketed and are growing worldwide. Pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig goes so far as to call added sugar a toxin.
Honestly, I found it hard to believe that there were still people who didn't believe sugar causes cavities or diabetes. Didn't we figure that out decades ago? Just as smoking advocates denied the link to cancer, so the sugar industry (and those who benefit from it) has consistently claimed that sugar is a healthy nutritional choice. Ouch. And not that long ago, companies like Coke used ad campaigns suggesting that drinking a lo-cal Coke was a great way to fill you up and stop you from over-eating. OK. Many people seem to have bought Big Sugar's story - that a calorie is a calorie, and that over-eating is the only problem. Even today, Coke is a sponsor of the Canadian Obesity Network Conference, trumpeting its healthy choices and deciding what research projects get funded. The average person is still consuming high-sugar sodas and juices and processed food containing huge amounts of added sugar at an alarming rate (at least four times what is recommended).
My favourite part of the documentary follows the story of Cristin Kearns, who started investigating the history of sugar regulation while working as a dentist. She discovered a cache of papers donated to her local library by a defunct sugar company. The papers included many confidential documents detailing the efforts by the Sugar Association to discredit any science showing the harmful effects of sugar. In fact, the Sugar Association won an advertising award for its PR campaign and successfully blocked the FDA from marking sugar as harmful in any quantity or issuing daily consumption guidelines.
There is a huge amount of material to cover, and director Michèle Hozer does an admirable job of constructing a narrative and choosing a few individuals to follow. These personal stories are the strongest and most memorable aspect of the film. It is visually appealing, especially the archival footage, but some of the graphics and the endless shots of candy being manufactured could have been jettisoned,
I worry, though, that despite the evidence given, it would still be too easy for a sugar advocate to dismiss the whole film, and even for the more-skeptical to be unconvinced by the story as told. Some might not even care, arguing that if you're too stupid to realize you are eating unhealthy food then you deserve what you get.