In 2015, I went to see That Sugar Film. For those who might not yet have heard of it, That Sugar Film is a documentary about sugar created by Australian documentary maker, Damon Gameau.

In this documentary, Damon decided to do three main things:

  1. To educate himself and others on the dangers of sugar on health
  2. To find out for himself and to expose to others where sugar hides in common foods, and
  3. To embark on a personal 60-day journey of consuming 40 teaspoons of sugar each day to see what this would do to his health.

My take on the documentary? A very real account of the place of sugar in our society, as well as some nifty ways to tell the story that would appeal to both adults and children for viewing. It showed Damon buying everyday food items in everyday supermarkets, a situation with which most people can identify.

It also showed the extremes of the problem, including a sad account of the devastating effect of sugar on Aboriginal communities, as well as an insight into the ordinary life of an American teenager who – due to excessive Mountain Dew consumption growing up – now needs every single one of his rotten teeth removed from his mouth. Some may call this sensationalism, I just call it real. Yes, it’s offensive to see the extremes of this problem, a problem that might not be overt to the rest of us who “know better”.

But do we?

So what about his experiment? In this short time frame, Damon gained 8.5kg of body weight, saw an increase in his liver enzymes, indicating the beginnings of fatty liver disease (verified by Prof Ken Sikaris, an extremely credible pathologist in Melbourne), and also believed that it took a toll on his mental well-being. All this while consuming the same number of calories that he consumed on his previous diet, which consisted of fruit, vegetables, full fat dairy products, meat, chicken / fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, coconut oil, olive oil and butter.

Now some sceptics challenge him on this, but assuming that he didn’t lie about it, the calories comparison does actually stack up. This certainly highlights that a calorie is NOT a calorie and that the energy balance equation is not as simple as it is made out to be. We just cannot ignore the complex nutrient and hormonal interactions that go on inside us affecting energy balance.

No this experiment was not a randomised controlled trial, so we can’t draw any causal conclusions– but I suspect this was never the intention. I also suspect that Damon is not immune to knowing about the hungry pack of sceptics out there just waiting to pounce on any hint of inaccuracy and therefore was rigorous about obtaining factual evidence.

The most compelling aspect of the documentary was that during the experiment, Damon did not consume any sugary drinks, sweets or lollies or “junk food”. What he ate was what we, the public, are told is healthy, and guided to eat by our governing organisations such as the Ministry of Health and the National Heart Foundation. The food industry has kindly provided us with an array of enticing (some might say) and convenient ways in which we can eat how we’re guided. i.e., packaged cereals, crackers, flavoured milks, low fat flavoured yoghurts, muesli bars, cereal-based drinks and juices. Some of these products even have the Heart Foundation tick on them. High carb, low fat is the mantra…and look at how it turned out for Damon: weight gain, lethargy, and the beginnings of fatty liver disease. How might it be turning out for you or your family?

Critics really need to take note that Damon goes from eating a whole food, LCHF (low carb healthy fat) diet – and one which is currently being called a fad and is being shunned by mainstream organisations – to a high carb, low fat diet that is endorsed by our national organisations and ends up getting fat and sick. Many of our critics say that this type of diet is healthful – and for some it might be… i.e., for those that change from eating a diet laden with junk food, fast food and items that are overtly high in sugar, such as soft drink, cakes, biscuits and sweets. In research studies groups are put on this mainstream diet and do better than their Standard American Diet– of course they do. But it is compelling to see just how much better one can fare when eating whole food, food that has a low HI (Human Interference) factor.

I have no doubt that some key messages will get across to the public after this film does the rounds. Apart from being a great film, it has also come at a perfect time for us at What The Fat? It parallels beautifully with our team’s philosophy of eating whole food, which if you do properly means that you end up eating a diet that is lower in carbohydrate, and higher in healthy fat than the current guided system.

You may be wondering where to start, if you are, What The Fat? is for you, as it clearly shows you 1. how to get started, 2. what and how to cook and 3. how to understand the science behind it. We hope you enjoy it and that it changes your life…for good.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • jojo says:

    that is sad

  • Caryn - the Whole Food Dietitian says:

    Hi Heather
    Thank you so much for your comment – I’m so glad you have seen the light. I agree with you regarding your frustration about people thinking that the promotion of eating “whole food” is a fad or “extreme”, and now of course with this new buzz word “orthorexia” – being obsessed with healthy food – will no doubt blow it out of proportion even more. I think we have worse problems in the world than people taking control and making sure that they eat well to look after themselves. Keep up the great work, and we hope you enjoy What The Fat? We ask that you join us and continue to spread the word. Cheers, Caryn

    • Nickie says:

      I brought the Sugar Film DVD and book, and we (my family of 2 sons and one husband) viewed the video one Friday night. Together now the the WTF book – I am mixing the two books – slowly – (esp after Xmas) to be able to get a range of LCHF foods into my family for a variety of reasons apart from the obvious. I love the Kiwi spin you put on in this article with regards to The Sugar Film. Pretty frightening stuff – especially when our 12 yr old son has Type 1 Diabetes, and are told ‘we can eat anything we want’! So wrong! So sad.

      • Hi Nickie
        Thanks for your comment, yes it is rather frightening that the main way to manage Type 1 diabetes is an “eat what you want” just control with insulin, rather than assuming a main focus on food i.e. reducing carbs and then matching less insulin with that. All the best with managing your son’s blood sugars, if you need some help with the nutrition side of things, you can get in touch with me on my clinic website.

  • Heather Rieger says:

    I went to see That Sugar Film last night and I think what you wrote above sums it up superbly.
    I have a background in Food Technology and spent a good 9 years formulating foods that contained way too much sugar all with the aim of tasting great and meeting specific cost parameters. After having two children and wanting to get back to feeling like I did pre-children, it became very obvious that I couldn’t continue to work where I was and achieve this at the same time. I am now working in a company who’s food products are classed as supplementary foods but don’t contain any sugar and are as a close to whole food sourced as you can get without being the raw food.
    It is both refreshing and frustrating to know that there is so much information out there about how to eat well – and simply, yet it is still classed as “fad” or “extreme” by most people esp those with mass influence on peoples habits.
    I shall be investing in a copy of What The Fat? and am looking forward to spreading the word about That Sugar Film and how to eat better to feel better – very much inside and out!!

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