That Sugar Film
My best friend Kurt told his 6-year-old son, Luke, two nuggets of wisdom.
Santa Claus exists and brings him presents on Christmas.
Soda is poison.
Unfortunately, Luke believes number one but not number two.
Luke has it backwards. Too much sugar really is poison.
As soon as I heard earlier this year that sugar is the cause of most of our food-related public health problems, I have been a believer.
This is the first time in my life that I’ve truly been convinced by a nutrition warning. I am not trendy and I’m not a health nut. I buy burritos at Taco Bell and breakfast sandwiches at McDonald’s. I don’t avoid chemicals or preservatives and I eat frozen packaged foods every morning.
I am not a calorie counter. But I now read the label of every grocery item that I get…to make sure that it contains less than 5g of sugar per serving.
“That Sugar Film” is a fun, inspiring documentary that reinforced my dietary beliefs.
Jovial young Australian Damon Gameau was a healthy young father-to-be. In order to become a more knowledgeable parent for his unborn daughter, Damon decided to do an experiment. For 60 days, Damon gave up meat, nuts, and veggies and ate sugary foods instead.
Damon went from eating virtually no processed sugar to 40 teaspoons a day. The effects were immediate and upsetting. He gained nearly 20 pounds. His liver became more fatty. His level of bad cholesterol spiked. This despite the fact that he was consuming less fat than before the experiment.
And this wasn’t from shoving Yodels down his gullet all day and washing them down with Dr. Pepper. Damon only ate supposedly healthy foods like granola bars, cereals, and low-fat yogurt. And he didn’t increase his caloric intake.
It turns out that the number of calories you consume isn’t nearly as important as the type of food.
It also turns out that the common sense notion that a high fat diet causes obesity is a myth.
In the 2004 documentary “Super Size Me,” Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s to prove that fast food is awful for your health. At the time, I thought that it was the red meat and fries that made Spurlock fat. It turns out that the hamburger patties and potatoes were the healthiest part of his meals. The real culprits were the corn syrup-infused buns and cheese slices and especially all the soda.
Damon doesn’t just expect us to trust him when he declares that sugar causes weight gain. Using clever cartoon-like demonstrations, he shrinks himself down and enters his own blood stream to show how an infusion of sugar causes the body to release insulin. Insulin metabolizes sugar and turns it into glucose for energy, and it promptly stores any excess glucose as fat.
Your body views sugar as a rare treat – as it was in nature – and eagerly fattens itself up to prepare for lean times ahead. Except in our society, the lean times never come and the fat stores just keep growing. If you’re constantly consuming sweets, the film argues, it’s almost impossible to get thinner.
Damon rightly blames food companies for loading their products with extra corn syrup and doing everything they can to hide the fact they are behind the diabetes and obesity epidemic.
I am just as outraged at schools for failing to give kids the knowledge they need to make healthful choices. It’s ridiculous that my high school felt that I needed to learn about calculus and igneous rocks but not about the foods that could make me fat and sick. They taught me where to find the liver and kidneys in a fetal pig but never told me that drinking the soda they sold in the cafeteria was destroying my own liver and kidneys.
If you care about your looks or your health, please cut down on sugar. And Kurt: when Luke begins to doubt that Santa is really visiting your house on Christmas, tell him that St. Nick is unable to deliver presents this year because he is suffering from morbid obesity. You know, due to all those cookies.