A film review is a first but everyone keeps asking what I thought of it, so here it is.
What’s all the fuss about? Unsurprisingly enough, it’s a film about sugar. I know, take a moment to absorb that spoiler. More specifically, it’s about a guy who met a girl, gave up all his evil sugar ways and they lived happily and healthily with out processed food or sugar. Then, when two was becoming three, he decided it was time to look at sugar consumption and how it effects the body. So basis for the documentary is sugar free man commits to consuming the average Australian daily sugar intake for 2 months, no soft drinks, lollies or chocolate it must be ‘hidden’ sugar in foods that are perceived as healthy.
So what? We’ve seen this before with Super Size Me, we can all guess then ending : health indicators go south, sugar is bad. However, I was interested from both a personal and professional point of view. My day job has been a crusade against the evils of sugar for the last 15 years. I need no invitation to get on my soap box about soft drinks, coca cola/schweppes and caffeinated energy drinks like V, red bull etc. I guess my disclaimers are: I have a decent appreciation of hidden sugars, the damage too much sugar does to your health and as a result I’m already anti sugar.
With all my cards laid bare, here I go. It was a well presented, easy to follow film with good use of graphics and effects to get across quite medical information or pretty dry statistics. I liked the set up of his experiment and the way it was delivered, I came away feeling informed, shocked in some ways but that I’d been left to make my own mind up and continue thinking about it rather than any big hard hitting ‘step away from the sugar’ hard sell.
Things I learnt that shocked me: the average Australian daily sugar intake is 40 teaspoons! (The World Health Organisation recommends 6-8); that sugars from fruit used to be so scarce in our diet that the body doesn’t deal well with it at all, Mountain Dew has 40% more caffeine than Coca Cola; and that whilst his diet change led to weight gain – the daily calories and physical activity levels were the same as before.
The only thing I was disappointed with was the processed food he was eating, I didn’t perceive most of it as healthy but junk food. It could have been even more effective if it had been ‘real hidden’ sugar, like foods perceived as savoury or neutral, that are actually sweetened. Stuff like marmite, cornflakes, weetbix, tinned tomatoes, bread etc rather than more obvious choices like flavoured milk, yoghurt and sugared cereal. That said, the target audience wasn’t me but the general public and it may have been really shocking to them that the foods used were laden with sugar.
I loved the ‘Mountain Dew mouth’ section, although felt it came across as an American problem rather than international. That this is what happens in Pepsi’s backyard. So my soap box bit for you is this: I knew that soft drinks in baby bottles happens, as well as fruit juice, that this leads to far too many children having a general anaesthetic and all their teeth out. That the big soft drink companies taylor the amount of sugar to local population preferences so the Coca Cola you buy in Morocco is much sweeter than that in the uk, that anyone who has visited there will see ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’ or ‘adult bottle caries’ in most of the adults in rural areas. But this isn’t limited to third world countries or low socio-economic areas. I see teenagers and young adults with mouths like this all the time, they walk round sipping massive can’s of V, Red Bull, Lift Plus when ever they can. That they flock to local dairies and grocery stores to buy this stuff before school, lunch time and after school. These are kids from average familes in a city in a developed country. That a ‘Mountain Dew mouth’ used to be something you’d only see in drug addicts because they were the only population who had that much oral neglect and the mechanisms for dealing with the chronic pain. That now it could be anyone, students, shift workers, busy mom’s relying on energy drinks to get buy. It’s a big problem, everywhere.
So back on topic, it was a really great film, I’d recommend it to everyone. I hope schools take it on board and really discuss it after watching it with pupils. I hope the message is heard. Less sugar – we’re hurting ourselves!