See How Sick Sugar Can Make You When it's Hidden in So-Called Healthy Foods

Australian actor and filmmaker Damon Gameau decided to eat 40 grams of the sweet stuff per day, and the impact on his body was pretty frightening.
Nov 21, 2014·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Maybe you don’t drink soda or munch on doughnuts for breakfast, but thanks to added sugar in seemingly nutritious foods, you might still be doing some damage to your body. That’s what Australian filmmaker and actor Damon Gameau found after he went on a Super Size Me–style mission to see what effect added sugar in food would have on him. Gameau documented the whole thing for the aptly titled The Sugar Film, which will be released in Australia in February 2015.

Consuming added sugar for the project was a novelty for Gameau. Before embarking on the film, he hadn’t eaten foods with added sugar for three years. Although most health-conscious people tend to avoid the kinds of items we know are laden with sweeteners, such as soda, ice cream, and candy, Gameau was curious what the effect of eating foods with hidden sugars—the kinds of items that can be found in the aisles of Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods—would be.

“All the sugars that I was eating were found in perceived healthy foods, so low-fat yogurts, and muesli bars, and cereals, and fruit juices, sports drinks...these kind of things that often parents would give their kids, thinking they’re doing the right thing,” Gameau told Yahoo.

Although the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons and that men eat no more than nine teaspoons of the sweet stuff daily, the average teenager around the world downs 40 teaspoons of sugar every day. No wonder childhood obesity rates are so high.

Gameau set out to replicate a teenager’s sugar intake and, as we saw with Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me, his health took a turn for the worse. After only three weeks, Gameau began developing symptoms of fatty liver disease. His mood was affected, and even though he was consuming so-called low-fat foods, his waistline expanded by four inches. He often found that after eating, he was still hungry.

“Sugar’s now in 80 percent of the processed food we’re eating,” Gameau told News.com.au. “If we can remove that, that’s the first step towards making a change.”

Despite the negative effect on his physical and mental health, Gameau said he isn’t completely against eating sugar. As with anything, moderation really is the key. But when it comes to sugar, Gameau’s experience shows that it certainly can’t hurt to watch our intake more carefully.