The World Health Organisation guidelines has released new guidelines calling for people to urgently reduce their sugar intake, as new research highlights the disastrous impact the sweet stuff has on the body.
The average Australian consumes 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, and the new UN guidelines urge people to reduce their intake to six teaspoons a day to help stop the mounting burden of “noncommunicable diseases”.
The dire warnings are echoed in That Sugar Film, a new documentary which follows actor Damon Gameau as he attempts to consume the average Australian’s daily sugar intake.
In 60 days, Gameau packed on eight kilograms and developed fatty liver disease, simply by eating ‘healthy’ food packed full of sugar.
The Super Size Me–style experiment shows how Australians are overdosing on the white stuff without even realising it.
It’s entertaining as much as it is disturbing, with cameo appearances from Hugh Jackman, who explains the history of sugar, and Stephen Fry, who explains sugar in its various forms.
The most worrying part of the experiment is that Gameau did it without gorging on ice-cream, chocolate or soft drink.
Gameau didn’t even change that much of his diet. Instead he added low-fat yoghurt, baked beans, fruit juice – all of the things you would associate with a healthy diet – to what he was already eating.
His team of health experts called him “insane” and, sure enough, within 18 days Gameau was told his liver cells were dying.
That Sugar Film shows the emotional and physical impact our sugar-laden diets have on us, with Gameau as the human guinea-pig.
Speaking to The New Daily, he insists the point of the film is to “empower” people, not to tell them to cut sugar out of their diet.
“We’re not trying to be dogmatic or preach, we’re just trying to raise awareness and say to people ‘you don’t know how much sugar you’re eating’,” Gameau says.
“I think we have to be careful. Words like ‘quit’ set the wrong tone.
“We’ve got to learn from the same mistakes we made with fat when we threw out every fat, including saturated fats like nuts and avocados.
“I think we’ve got to make sure we don’t do that with sugar,” he says.
Gameau denies the anti-sugar movement is exactly the same as that against fat in the second half of the 20th century, arguing there is now overwhelming evidence that sugar, not fat, is at the root of our biggest heath problems.
“Any health expert from around the world would say that now. We are having too much sugar.”
“The point of the film isn’t saying ‘cut it out altogether’, but 30 to 40 teaspoons a day is not what we’re designed to deal with.”
The health impacts on the 38-year-old were certainly profound.
“That’s what makes the film so powerful,” he says.
As someone who previously ate a very healthy diet with no refined sugars, by the end of the experiment doctors said Gameau was well on his way to obesity, with an extra 10 centimetres of visceral fat around his stomach.
“These things correlate with metabolic disease like heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”
Despite the overwhelming evidence, can cutting down on sugar really be a blanket solution to all the world’s ills?
“The overall message for us is just trying to remove processed food and get back to those real foods.
“It’s obviously going to take time, but people just need to learn to take more control over what they’re putting in their bodies.
“People are not going to feel great for a while, and it’s different from everyone, but you just need to break through that barrier.”