Fed Up – Movie Review

Last Friday, my wife and I went out to watch the new health documentary Fed Up. The main theme of the movie is about the obesity epidemic in the US, how the US government has been unable to fight the corporations effectively and takes a head-on fight against sugar. The movie is produced and narrated by Katie Couric, featuring interviews from high profilers such as Bill Clinton, Michael Pollan etc.
Fed Up – The Trailer
The argument that the movie producers are trying to make is that working out isn’t enough to lose weight; and the scales are tipped against an individual’s favor when considering the amount of junk food available everywhere. Kids from a very young age are targeted in advertising and are hooked onto the legal drug – sugar. Parallels are drawn between the current junk food industry and the cigarette industry from the yesteryears. The movie producers and the speakers in the documentary call for a change in food habits and for the government to act accordingly.

While nothing new to health nuts such as my wife and I, this movie is probably an eye-opener for plenty of people, who have no idea where their food comes from and how the un-nutritional and harmful processed food generally is. We felt that the movie got very repetitive, but we could see why the producers had to do that in order to get the message across. So, that was our short takeaway from the movie, and with that out of the way, lets see why I am writing about a health documentary on this blog.

In addition to watching a health-related documentary, my investor brain was kicking in, trying to find opportunities in the trends identified. The movie focuses on the processed food industry such as McDonalds (MCD), Coca Cola (KO), PepsiCo (PEP), Kellogg (K) etc, which are the darlings of the investor world. However, what the movie misses to address is how the US government is also enabling this by subsidizing the agricultural sector to produce mass levels of corn syrup, which finds its way into a majority of the products. There was one statement from Bill Clinton that touched on this issue when he states “I don’t think high-fructose corn syrup is a good use of corn”, but seemed to have been missed by the producers as a point of emphasis.
I am not yet invested in the processed food manufacturing industry, but hold stocks in agricultural giant – Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), which receives plenty of subsidies from the US government. In addition to receiving subsidies from the government to produce increased levels of corn for food, corn is also used as an energy source in the production of ethanol and bio-fuel.

The movie simply states some facts such as the rise in obesity, heart diseases etc. One “fact” that was stated in the movie that caught me by surprise was that we now have a lowered life expectancy than the previous generation, although my follow-up research does not seem to suggest any such thing (Source: World Bank data). The advancements we’ve achieved in the pharmaceutical industry (lots of investment opportunities there) and the medical procedures have elongated our life expectancy for sure. How good is the quality of life, is a completely other question.
The increased levels of unhealthy living leading up to obesity, diabetes and heart diseases are probably the best opportunity for investment – as I realized it a few years ago and started investing by initiating positions in companies such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Medtronic Inc (MDT). I also invested heavily over the last few years in a healthcare mutual fund which I recently sold after doubling my investment, but I still maintain the positions in JNJ and MDT and intend to add more to my positions in the future.

I recommend watching this movie for two reasons: (a) to educate yourself about healthy living and learn about the obesity epidemic in the US and (b) to identify and observe investment opportunities.
Full disclosure: Long ADM, JNJ and MDT. My full list of holdings can be found here.