That Sugar Film – Take II
In my last post “That Sugar Film – Take 1” I clarified some points from the film regarding the effect of excess sugar on metabolism. In this post I will address some things the film exaggerates, as well as some take home messages. For those who haven’t seen it, we watch an Australian man who takes himself off of his self-prescribed low-carbohydrate diet and follows the diet of a typical Australian, which includes a whopping 40 teaspoons of added sugar; He and team of medical professionals track the changes in his health throughout the film.
First, some exaggerations:
- Our narrator, as well as his wife, describe many moments where his moods, as well as energy level wavers from one end of the spectrum to the other. One of the film’s medical experts explains the phenomenon of the “sugar spike”, and how it causes these swings in mood and energy. In short, after eating, our blood glucose rises, the rapidity and intensity of this rise is related to what we ate, and the amount and type of sugar contained therein. Our body responds by releasing hormones which promote uptake of the blood glucose into the cells of our body, where it can be converted to energy or stored. This entering and exiting of glucose in and from our bloodstream corresponds with the individual feeling “high” or a sugar “rush” followed by a “low”, or “crash”, respectively. According to the film, this “crash” can reach debilitating proportions. Additionally, because our brains are highly dependent upon glucose to function, our thoughts, moods, and behaviors are affected.
I will not contest the science here, as blood glucose in our body is processed this way. However, the actual effect on our mood and behavior is varied. Individuals have differing tolerances for sugar, as does the body have multiple ways of handling it. A healthy individual can tolerate sugar intake without experiencing this debilitating “crash” after eating a piece of cake or having a soda. Those who do experience a particularly intense “crash” may already have a metabolic condition, or precursor, pre-diabetes for instance, or worse, an undiagnosed condition (a large percentage of metabolic conditions are). Nonetheless, many other factors can augment or contribute to a “crash” such as meal frequency, time of day, level of stress/anxiety, sleep habits, and level of physical activity. Take home point here, it’s not as simple as sugar in, feel high, sugar out, feel low.
- In the film, we witness an interview with a scientist studying energy metabolism in a lab receiving unrestricted funding from Coca-Cola. At face value, the findings from that lab will not surprise anyone. Of course the scientist denies that Coke interferes with their work, and I actually believe him. Here’s the thing, Coke doesn’t care what the research finds. Should some of the data indicate that drinking soda and soft drinks (which have way too much sugar) are detrimental to health, Coke has many options:
- These studies typically collect LOTS of data related to diet, as well as physical activity, thus they can pick and choose what to highlight and what to gloss over. Researchers can do this with good conscience because, after all, everything is related to health, making it easy to rationalize pushing one thing (exercise) over another (diet).
- Two – Coke can simply search through their product line (after all, they don’t just do soda) and find an appropriate product (water, energy drink, fruit drink) market those findings accordingly.
- Three, if they can’t find an appropriate product, they could develop or acquire one. The word on the street is that giant soda companies are creating confusion by implicating the lack of physical activity in our daily lives as the real culprit to our ill health. Thus if we exercise, we can “erase” a poor diet, or rather, a diet with loads of sugar; (Exercise cannot do this, I will talk about this in more detail on my next post).
- The film proposes a theory that excess sugar in our diets promotes materialism in our society. This is based on the idea that the quick “sugar rush” we get, which happens on a chemical level, inside our bodies, reinforces the desire for instant gratification, which penetrates and influences our everyday behaviors, causing us to over-value material things. This, of course, is theory but one that seems to have merit. Behavioral researchers, take note, this could be fundable topic you’ve been waiting for.
Second, some Important points to take from the film:
- From an evolutionary perspective, the sugar in our foods is way too high, regardless of current debate, we, as a nation, are NOT healthy and it is simply ignorant to believe that the high sugar intake in our diet is not contributing in some way.
- The narrator does spend some time in the United States (the sugar consumption capital of the world) where he struggles to keep from exceeding 40 teaspoons of added sugar a day. It is incredibly difficult to eat healthy while travelling in this country.
To wrap-up, the film makes leaps in its accusations towards the ill-effects of sugar consumption. Likely the narrator as well as his hand-picked team of experts is a bit biased, as all of them decided what they would find before the experiment began. Nonetheless, the argument for taking in less sugar is very strong. In our current environment, the difficulty, especially in the U.S. is unreasonably high. I do recommend watching this film. If you do, and you find I missed anything, please chime in.
Next post, more on exercise vs. diet as well as tips you can use to limit sugar intake.
Thanks for reading!
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Published by mattktraining
I am currently the Owner of my soloprenuerial company Matt K Training. Through my fitness and nutrition programs I help adults develop skills and practices that help them eat, move, and recover well. Over the past 20 years, in various roles such as a Personal trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Clinical Researcher, and Health Coach I have helped hundreds of adults reach their health and physical performance goals. When not working, I enjoy active pursuits such as playing right field for the Charlton Giants (in a 38+ competitive baseball league), playing tennis, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. I also enjoy indoor activities such as playing strategy board games, reading and discussing science fiction literature, dabbling with my guitar, finding creative ways to eat oatmeal, and being a good dad.