The Nature of Things Series
Programmed To Be Fat?
Man-made chemicals may be programming us to be fat - before we're even born.
Directed by Bruce Mohun
Produced by Sue Ridout, Helen Slinger and Sara Darling
Written by Bruce Mohun and Helen Slinger
Editor: Tim Wanlin
Director of Photography: John Collins
Composer: Graeme Coleman
Narrated by David Suzuki
Produced by Dreamfilm Productions in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
What if something is happening to children pre-natally that is programming our species to be heavier than we should be?
"Careful, scientifically rigorous yet thoroughly understandable...Truly superb."
Dr. J.P. Myers, Founder, CEO, and Chief Scientist, Environmental Health Sciences
Perhaps being fat isn't simply the result of too much food, too little exercise, and genetics. Controversial new science is raising suspicion about chemicals in our environment that may be setting us up for obesity before we're even born.
Every second adult in the western world is overweight. One in six is obese. It's true that we eat too much and don't exercise enough. But a small group of scientists have begun looking beyond the obvious because of a group that can't chew, let alone jog: infant obesity rose more than 70 per cent in just twenty years. You can't blame them for unhealthy lifestyles. The scientists suspect that, starting in the womb, man-made chemicals may be triggering changes to our metabolism that result in life-long weight gain.
PROGRAMMED TO BE FAT? tells the stories of three scientists whose unexpected findings led them to follow the research of a curious doctor in Scotland, baffled by her inability to lose weight. For three years she pored over existing research on environmental chemicals and finally published a key study in an alternative medicine journal. It linked endocrine-disrupting chemicals to the obesity epidemic. The scientists came across the paper while puzzling over their own research results. None of their studies were about fat, but they had two things in common - they were all researching endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and they all ended up with unusually heavy lab animals.
Endocrine disruptors are all around us - in plastic, in cans, in the water we drink, in the food we eat. They're not supposed to enter our bodies, but they do. If they're proven to cause weight gain, the implications for human health are profound.
Now, scientists are going beyond animal research to human population studies, testing the theory that fetal exposure to man-made chemicals is a key reason for our global obesity epidemic and making a strong argument for the adoption of the precautionary principle to regulate the introduction of new man-made chemicals.
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2012
Copyright Date: 2012
DVD ISBN: 1-93777-216-0
"Very well made, informative and thought provoking...This theory should change the way we think about obesity, which is typically described as either a genetic problem or a result of individual behaviors. It could hopefully sway policy makers to take more serious action about ways in which environmental intervention can be used to prevent obesity and related diseases like diabetes."
Dr. Michael Goran, Director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center, Professor of Preventive Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics and Pediatrics, University of Southern California
"A first-rate documentary about a very important and complex issue facing us today...A compelling story...This is a highly technical issue but it is explained in a clear way for general audiences, conveying both the excitement of modern biomedical research as well as the importance of the implications."
Dr. R. Thomas Zoeller, Endocrinologist, Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
"In exploring a relatively poorly understood but critically important dimension of human developmental plasticity, this film very effectively illustrates the scientific method in action. The filmmakers make a strong case that we should employ the precautionary principle in regulating endocrine disrupting substances."
Dr. Kathryn Hicks, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Memphis
"Very interesting and provocative...Will provide the general public with an accessible overview of topic and an outline of the latest science. Especially good was the coverage of epigenetics and the potential role in changes in metabolism that may underlie a propensity for weight gain."
Dr. Charles Burant, Professor of Metabolism and Environmental Health Sciences, University of Michigan
"Programmed to be Fat? offers a powerful examination of a new scientific explanation for why many of us are fat and can't ever seem to win the battle of the bulge. Careful, scientifically rigorous yet thoroughly understandable, it explores evidence that chemicals interfering with hormones disrupt genes that control our weight. Truly superb."
Dr. J.P. Myers, Founder, CEO, and Chief Scientist, Environmental Health Sciences
"Provocative...Deftly interweaves interviews, animation, and live-action to present an interesting concept. Highly recommended."
C. Cassady, Video Librarian
"Highly Recommended...Does an exemplary job of analyzing and explaining many potential contributors to our modern obesity crisis using scientific data, expert analysis, and scholarly research. Beyond obesity, this film sounds the alarm on environmental chemicals in general and the fact that so much is not yet known and that not enough is being done to study, understand, and protect ourselves. The depth and breadth of information in this documentary is fantastic, it is top-notch in every way!"
Karen Coronado, George Fox University, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Startling...Interesting and important...It is not just weak-willed adults who are packing on the pounds: even newborn babies have been getting fatter, and even non-human animal species...Suitable for high school and for college courses in cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, medical anthropology, anthropology of food, anthropology of science and technology, and American studies, as well as general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Community College of Denver, Anthropology Reviews Database
"Raises disturbing but vital questions about whether our current procedures for testing the safety of chemicals are comprehensive enough (especially when new chemicals seem to be 'innocent until proven guilty')...Highly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review
"Programmed To Be Fat? provides a realistic and understandable scientific approach to some of the issues involved with the world's obesity epidemic."
George Allen Wistreich, East Los Angeles College, Science Books and Films
"Startling and disturbing...This thought-provoking video includes ample data for class discussion."
Ann Weber, Bellarmine College Preparatory, School Library Journal
"Preventing obesity, we are learning, is far more complex than 'calories in, calories out.'..[The filmmaker] transforms a potentially dry description of scientific research into an engaging--and disquieting--tale of discovery...Programmed to be Fat brings an important (and growing) body of evidence into the public eye, and provides yet another reason to closely scrutinize and carefully regulate all chemicals before they are released into our midst."
Alex Merrill, Canadian Women's Health Network
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
CBC's website for the film
Interview with the filmmaker
Awards and Festivals
2012 Science Books & Films Best List
Silver World Medal, Health/Medical Information, New York Festivals
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film + Video Festival
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"The Ecologist first reported on the issue back in 2006 and has continued its coverage in recent months but with a new documentary, Programmed to be Fat? being screened...the topic may finally be gaining mainstream recognition."
Tom Levitt, Deputy Editor, Ecologist
"Being overweight is the result of various factors - diet, exercise, lifestyle choices, 'bad genes'...but Programmed to be Fat? brought to light the links between obesity and common chemicals in products we use every day."
Environmental News Network
"If the science is correct, the implications for human health are profound...Investigations like Programmed to be Fat? help to get the debate out in the open and one day this may well lead to more effective ways of tackling weight gain than the misery of trying to starve and punish ourselves for failing at something that may no longer be entirely within our control."
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