That Sugar Film

When I heard about this film, I gave a little yawn and rolled my eyes. Hadn’t Morgan Spurlock done this more than ten years ago with Super Size Me when he ate nothing but McDonald’s for thirty days? Surely this is old news!

The difference is that Morgan Spurlock’s experiment was a little improbable. There are very few people who would actually eat MacDonald’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every single day. However, Damon Gameau would actually eat the average quantity of sugar most people consumed on a daily basis….that average is 40 teaspoons.

The other thing that was of interest is that Damon did not increase his overall calorie consumption – that remained the same. He was just getting his calories from different foods; specifically, low fat foods.

Over the sixty day period, Damon gained about eight kilograms, and his waist circumference increased ten centimetres.  Blood tests conducted at the beginning, end and throughout the experiment showed significant decrease in health markers. The diet he was consuming affected his mood and ability to concentrate.

Damon is not demonising sugar, nor blaming sugar for the epidemic of metabolic health conditions faced by an increasing number of people. But he is questioning whether the ‘low-fat message’ we have been told is healthy since the 1950s, is actually the right message.

That Sugar Film is beautifully made. It is entertaining and interesting to watch. And it’s thought provoking. There are a few sensationalist moments I could have done without – I really didn’t need to see a young man from Kentucky having all his teeth extracted after they had been destroyed and decayed from years of drinking Mountain Dew – but shock is currency and can drive home a point.

I struggle watching films and documentaries like this. I am constantly amazed and shocked at just how little people know about nutrition. I know that saying this has the potential of making me sound arrogant, but when Damon started listing the foods that people consider to be healthy, I shook my head in disbelief. Who in their right mind would think that drinking a liquid breakfast of Nutri-Grain in a box is a healthy way to start the day?

But he is right. People do think that a muesli bar or bottle of fruit juice is healthy. They see granola bars and smoothies as being a healthy choice – frequently because these foods are labelled as low fat with no consideration of their sugar content.

However, I am not the target audience. And neither were the healthcare professionals or public health experts in the room.

The challenge is getting the message out to the wider audience and to cut through the marketing palaver and the mixed health messages we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

It can be so confusing to understand what makes a certain type of food a ‘healthy choice’, or to understand just what is in a jar of pasta sauce. It is unbelievably difficult to cut through the health messages that are presented from reputable sources, let alone the propaganda we are fed by celebrities pushing their latest ‘health’ craze.

We need to make things as easy as possible for people to make healthy choices. Why are we still making things so difficult?

This blog was first published on the Diabetes Australia-Victoria website. Renza Scibilia is the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Community Programs at DA–Vic. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1998. The opinions and thoughts expressed in her blogs are her own. Renza blogs regularly atDiabetogenic about real life with type 1 diabetes and you can also follow her on Twitter @RenzaS

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