13 March 2015
Katie Ayling | Nutritionist
Whether you’ve heard of it, seen of it or didn’t know it existed “That Sugar Film’ as you can imagine is about sugar and like the rest of the media at the moment it demonises sugar as the villain for most problems in society today. No longer are we focusing on “fat” as the villain we have moved onto sugar because let’s face it we still have an obesity epidemic.
Australian actor Damon Gameau directed and stars in the “super-size me” inspired documentary.
Damon, who has eaten little sugar for the past 2 years, puts himself through a 60 day ‘experiment’ consuming 40 teaspoons of sugar per day found in common ‘healthy’ foods and drinks e.g. yoghurt, breakfast cereal and juice.
If taken with a grain of salt, the top line message from the film is great. It makes people like you and me think about what we are eating and reduce processed foods in our diet. There are however many miscommunications about sugar, were clearly the highly entertaining nature of the film outweighed the importance of exhaustive and credible research.
Here’s a few grains of salt that should be taken when watching or hearing about the film:
Grain of salt number 1: Damon eats 40tsp of sugar as he claims this is “the average daily intake of a young adult male, 14-16 years “. There are a number of flaws here. Firstly the latest national survey showed males aged 14-18 years consumed on average 33 tsp of total sugars. In fact the average Australian total sugar intake is around 26 teaspoons. Secondly, this is clearly not an appropriate amount of sugar for his age and physical activity. Young growing boys have the highest energy requirements.
Grain of salt number 2: Damon claims to put on nearly 8kg and develop early signs of fatty liver disease over the 60 days. The first law of thermodynamics (sorry for the nerdy language) and a bit of common sense tells us you cannot put on this much weight without eating too many calories or not burning enough off.
Grain of salt number 3: Damon claims to be eating “perceived healthy foods” were in fact he was eating a diet of only processed foods. This is very different from a healthy balanced diet. There were no vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, whole fruits, plain dairy, plain meat in his experiment diet. His diet would be lacking in protein, fibre, healthy fats (and hence feelings of satiety) and many vitamins and minerals as well as containing excess sugar. So can you really attribute these detrimental changes to his health to sugar? I think not.
All in all it is an entertaining film and hopefully the viewer will walk out and have a greater awareness of the processed foods they have in their diet. However sugar is at the tail end of the films jokes as it is inaccurately portrayed as society’s new villain. So remember take the film with a grain of salt and hopefully when the focus moves on from sugar we can look at the bigger picture, and stop blaming one villain.