An Australian man, Damon Gameau, has survived on a sugar-heavy diet for 60 days to explore the impact of sugar on his health.
As depicted in the upcoming The Sugar Film, Damon lived on a strict diet of foods largely considered to be ‘healthy’ and ‘low fat’. Interestingly, Damon’s high sugar diet did not consist of the sugary foods the mind typically conjures up when thinking of sugar. No soft drink, chocolate, ice cream or lollies were consumed. Instead, the sugars came from those found in ‘healthy’ items including low-fat yogurt, muesli bars, cereals, fruit juices and sports drinks.
Within three weeks Damon reported feeling sluggish and moody. A visit to his GP gave him some astonishing news; he was beginning to develop fatty liver disease, which at its most severe, can lead to liver failure. In addition, Damon’s mental state was described as ‘unstable’, and he had added nearly four inches of dangerous visceral fat to his waist. Damon commented that the high sugar diet left him feeling hungry and unsatisfied all the time.
Damon consumed approximately 40 teaspoons of sugar each day, slightly more than the average teenager worldwide. The World Health Organisation’s current daily sugar intake recommendation (from 2002), is that sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day. The new draft guideline suggests a further reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day for additional benefits. Five per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI).
What to take from this
The take away is not to cut out all sugar from your diet (a diet of extremes will not do you any good). Rather, be aware that sugar is now in 80% of all processed foods, and limit the amount of processed food you eat. Focus instead on eating plenty of fresh produce, vegetables and some fruits, and keep high sugar foods and drinks to a minimum.