IT’S been 10 years since Morgan Spurlock existed on just McDonald’s for a month in the groundbreaking film, Super Size Me.
Now our waistlines face a new threat, and another guinea pig has undergone some risky self-experimentation to try to make sense of it.
Australian TV actor and filmmaker Damon Gameau stars in That Sugar Filmwhich will air in Australian cinemas in early 2015, in which he exists on “healthy” low-fat food with a high sugar content for 60 days.
The results are more shocking than anyone could have expected.
Within three weeks, the previously healthy Damon was feeling terrible all the time, lethargic and snapping at the slightest thing.
A visit to the doctor confirmed the worst — he had the beginnings of fatty liver disease.
“I had no soft drink, chocolate, ice cream or confectionery,” Damon told Sunrise this week. “All the sugars that I was eating were found in perceived healthy foods, so low-fat yoghurts and muesli bars and cereals and fruit juices, sports drinks … these kind of things that often parents would give their kids thinking they’re doing the right thing.”
Instead, the Underbelly actor reveals, these hidden sugars had a remarkably damaging effect on his physical and mental health.
The father-to-be put on 10cm of visceral fat around his waist, and was informed that he was on the fast-track to obesity. He was also told his mental functioning was “unstable”.
Damon had increased his intake to 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, just slightly more than that of the average teenager worldwide. Recommended daily intake is a maximum of nine teaspoons a day, or six for women.
He now believes labelling is deliberately ambiguous, and that we need to be conscious that every four grams of sugar equals a teaspoon of sugar.
Despite keeping his calories the same, Damon said he never seemed to feel full.
For breakfast, he would have low-fat yoghurt, cereal and apple juice. That contained 20 teaspoons of sugar.
“We’re not being dogmatic and saying people having to quit sugar, it’s just being aware,” he said. “Sugar’s now in 80 per cent of the processed food we’re eating. If we can remove that, that’s the first step towards making a change.”
The movie features cameos from Stephen Fry, Isabel Lucas and Brenton Thwaites, and king of food campaigners Jamie Oliver has called the film a “definite must-see”.
But will it convince people to change their habits?
There are now nearly six million Australians with fatty liver disease and only 6000 of those are caused by alcohol.
Type 2 diabetes is killing someone every six seconds worldwide, and Damon believes we’ve reached a point where we need to do something.
The creators of That Sugar Film have secured funding to create a educational program around the movie.
Its website offers tips, recipes and a study guide for kids, and will later grow into a larger hub, where people can take part in challenges such as cutting out sugar for 10 days.
Damon’s final meal was a full 40 teaspoons of sugar that could be found in an ordinary child’s school lunchbox. “Sadly, it was very easy to do and fitted comfortably into the small plastic container,” he wrote on his blog documenting his experiment.
“The last meal was for all the people out there, especially parents, who are led to believe they are doing the right and healthy thing for their children. They are making an effort yet are horribly let down by the lack of integrity in marketing and packaging strategies.”
Originally published as ‘I supersized myself on sugar’