Documentary about Sugar

December 17, 2021
A documentary about sugar

That Sugar FilmDamon Gameau features in and directs That Sugar Film, his documentary investigating hidden sugar in food. Photograph: Madman

Actor Damon Gameau strapped drugs to Matthew Newton’s stomach in Underbelly and received an AFI nomination for playing hard-nosed news reporter Greg Shackleton in Balibo. But his latest film uses a little more method than he’s used to.

“Not even Daniel Day-Lewis could act fatty liver disease, ” says Gameau, who received just that – and several other blows to his wellbeing – after indulging for 60 days in a Super Size Me-esque stunt to test the effect of sugar on his body.

Not even Daniel Day-Lewis could act fatty liver disease.

The premise of That Sugar Film, Gameau’s debut as a feature film-maker and documentarian, rests on a decision three years ago to eliminate refined sugar from his diet. This means the slate was clean to test what would happen if he returned to the sweet stuff. In short: aforementioned liver disease, 10cm of visceral fat around his waist, mood swings and (according to doctors) early signs of what could lead to coronary problems.

The twist is that Gameau didn’t splurge on sloppy nosh such as cheeseburgers, chips and sundaes – in other words food everybody knows is bad for you. Gameau consumed the typical Australian’s 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, maintained exercise, the same kilojoule intake of his regular diet and – the clincher – only ate foods perceived to be healthy. This includes cereal, smoothies, muesli bars and low-fat yoghurt. The kind of products at the heart of advertising campaigns built on extolling their supposed virtues, using faux science and deceptive packaging.

“If I’d gone and consumed Mars bars and Cokes the whole time I think we all would know I’d have had ill effects. We get that, ” he says. “Where people have been duped is around the lack of integrity and accountability in labelling. You see some of these products in the supermarket with a sunset on them. Or words like Mother Nature and a bee and a flower or something. And people believe it.”

Gameau says the worst effect of the diet was on his cognition, mood and ability to concentrate. “I’d be fine once I had the sugar and then about 45 minutes later I’d get the feeling of being vague and aloof. I didn’t expect that to happen so dramatically. Especially towards the end. It took a toll emotionally.”

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