Sunday, 23 August 2015

The sweeter things in life have a bitter twang... "That Sugar Film"


Seeking something a little bit different to watch this weekend, I thought I would look into watching  the documentary about Sugar that I had heard might totally change my opinion about sweet things and their effect on health. Rather like the film Supersize me before it, That Sugar Film, revolves around a normal, relatively healthy man taking on a hypotheses about nutrition and it's effects on health. I enjoyed it so immensely that I decided to devote blog space to it. Currently I am thinking this will probably be two to three instalments.



Damon Gameau is an Australian actor and now director and film maker and I am pretty familiar with his face for some reason and realise he was in the Miss Fisher mysteries.



Here he decides to see what the effect of hidden sugars is having on public health. He is basing this on the norm for Australia , but we can easily transfer the data onto the UK or USA as we have comparable obesity issues. From my own research I know that obesity rates  are as follows

The USA 33% of the population is classed as obese

The UK. 26.9% 

Australia 26.8

Coming from a place of relative health, having cut all refined sugars from his diet some six years before, Damon makes a good test subject as he does not really eat poorly, but is not on a very austere diet either.

So from where does young Damon take his baseline level of intake, apparently the average Australian family of four would need to eat six kilos of sugar a week and then the next week go back and buy another six kilos. If one wanted to go to the supermarket and buy only food with no added sugars in it, only 20% of the items currently available would still be present. 

Some things are actually quite obviously sweeter than first appearances suggest, after you think about it, of course bread and so pizzas will contain sugars, it activates the yeast that makes the dough rise and many tomato sauces and soups contain sugar as they are used as acid regulators as the source fruit may not be at optimal ripeness on processing  and sugar makes the flavour more fulsome.

The issue of Sugar in the diet being a direct contributor to metabolic illnesses first came to notice when Eisenhower had a heart attack and two schools of thought came into being. Ancel Keys was an American who claimed that fat intake was the reason people developed heart disease. In the opposite camp was a British physiologist John Yudkin who suggested it was in actual fact the increased amounts of refined sugars in post war diets.

"I have already mentioned Dr Ancel Keys and his pioneer work in relation to diet and heart disease. A year or so ago he wrote a memorandum which he sent to a large number of scientists working in this field and which with very few changes has now been published in a medical journal 'Atherosclerosis'. It consists entirely of a strong criticism - I nearly said virulent criticism - of the work I have published from time to time on the theory that sugar is the main dietary factor involved in causing heart disease" Yudkin .



Sugar, not cholesterol...

In his defence keys was well respected,  Ancel Keys authored the Seven Countries Study in 1958, after exploratory research on the relationship between dietary pattern and the prevalence of coronary heart disease in Greece, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Japan, and Finland. Out of all his scientific accomplishment, the SCS is arguably the most important. He did also live to 100 years old.Keys more than anybody else was the driving force behind the theory ,pointing out the cardioprotective effect of the Mediterranean diet and the ‘Keys equation’ on the effect of different dietary fatty acids on serum cholesterol levels, both of which still widely studied today.



Keys won the debate so fats were demonised and the sugar industry was free to grow and add that crystalline white stuff to pretty much everything humans consume that is prepackaged or processed. I mildly gratified that a Brit was so involved in this mobement

To safely conduct his experiment.  Damon gathers a bunch of medical folks together to monitor him as he embarks on what could be quite a costly experiment to his own health. We have pathologist to monitor his blood for blood sugars, heart function and liver enzymes, a nutritionist, a expert on food science and a general practitioners of check his ongoing wellbeing throughout the process.

His starting point was a daily intake of approximately 2300 calories, generally made up of 

50% good fats from nuts and avocado


26% proteins  meats cheese

24% carbs  veggies and fruits 

He weighed 76 kilos and had a tummy circumference of 86cm and was classed as slightly healthier than the average western male of his age. He would maintain the same level of exercise, not eat anything deemed bad, so no cakes, sweets, chocolate or pastries. In fact everything must be low fat or deemed health food. So for example low fat yoghurt, cereal and a glass of apple juice for breakfast is within acceptable realms. And so it begins....

He is tasked with eating 40 teaspoons of sugar a day in hidden Sugars



The film is light hearted in tone in this preparatory stage, with famous faces like Australia's Favourite son Hugh Jackman offering humorous oversights of how Sugars came to be valuable commodity in the times of the Elizabethans , cartoon  graphics show the journey of cane sugar into Asia and Europe.

Gameau has enough of a playful demeanour to hold an audience, the film was engaging without seeming preachy, I enjoyed it immensely.  His journey is enlightening and actually very important if  the results are indicative of the effect of sugar on health in most western civilisations.

1 comment:

  1. Curious to see what happens! Excellent blog post!

    ReplyDelete