Opening 29 Oct 2015
Jamie Oliver called this film a ‘must-see’, and in Australia it was the most successful documentary film to date. Writer and reporter Damon Gameau performs a radical sugar-intake experiment on his own body to show how harmful and self-destructive a modern diet with processed food and sugar additives is to the human body.
Gameau, who declares he does not normally eat sugar, begins to eat the equivalent of 40 teaspoonfuls of sugar every day for 60 days. If that sounds like a lot it is actually only the average intake for the population of Australia and other Western countries. Shockingly, the sugar he eats is NOT the presumably harmful kind found in chocolates, cookies, cakes and sweets of all kinds, but the ‘secret’ fructose hiding in ‘healthy’ cereals, juices, fruit smoothies and soda drinks, and in 90% of the foods on the average supermarket shelves.
For all 60 days Gameau consumes the same daily calorie input (2300 KCAL) and the same exercise program as before the experiment. The idea is to measure the effect of sugar and sugar alone on his organism. It is shocking to see the change in Gameau’s body after even 30 days. In one month he goes from healthy to pre-diabetic, his liver becomes fatty, his stomach bloated with fat. He becomes unfocussed, has mood swings, and his energy level shifts several times a day from lethargic to overcharged and back again. In 60 days he has gained eight kilos and his liver values are alarming.
The film raises serious issues about the harmfulness of sugar and its persistent misrepresentation in the media and in clinical studies. These are often funded by industrial food processing interests. Gameau speaks openly of collaboration to propagate a “total calorie/total exercise” consensus in the industry. In the food processing industry, says Gameau, a fatty liver comes either from gluttony or sloth, not from the excessive addition of fructose to almost every processed product.
The science is unfortunately a little slipshod (I deducted a star for this); Gameau does not reveal what other products he eats (with all those processed foods it’s not just sugar that is potentially harmful). His caloric intake is only estimated, and his exercise program looks increasingly slow as he gains weight. A more scientific approach would involve a much larger group with strict supervision, a totally restricted life style to test a change in the factor sugar alone, and an equally large control group. Possibly under ethical standards unachievable.
All said, this is a revealing film which could be positively life-changing for some. The bright colors, pop music and garish effects (Mountain Dew mouth!) may make it appealing to teens starting to make their own food choices. (Ann Gebauer-Thompson)