Marilyn Minter

Marilyn Minter

It may not seem like much, but you are most likely taking in more added sugar than you think. Many "natural," organic, low-fat and fat-free foods are unassumingly laden with sugar and we eat them not knowing because we assume their label implies that their healthy.

A new movie called “That Sugar Film” seeks to educate consumers about the hazards of consuming too much added sugar, which can be found in an estimated 80 percent of all supermarket foods. The new documentary stars an Australian actor-director, Damon Gameau, who modeled his movie after “Super Size Me,” the 2004 film that followed Morgan Spurlock as he consumed an all-McDonald’s diet for 30 days.

In “That Sugar Film,” which first had its debut in Australia this year, Mr. Gameau gives up his normal diet of fresh foods for two months to see what happens when he shifts to eating a diet containing 40 teaspoons of sugar daily, the amount consumed by the average Australian (and an amount not far from the 28 teaspoons consumed daily by the average American teenager). The twist is that Mr. Gameau avoids soda, ice cream, candy and other obvious sources of sugar. Instead, he consumes foods commonly perceived as “healthy” that are frequently loaded with added sugars, like low-fat yogurt, fruit juice, health bars and cereal.

Mr. Gameau finds that his health and waistline quickly spiral out of control. While the film is mostly entertainment, it tries to present the science of sugar in a consumer-friendly way, with helpful cameos from Hugh Jackman, Stephen Fry and others. It is also timely. Just last month, the federal government proposed a new rule that would require nutrition labels to carry details about added sugars, a measure that has faced resistance from the food industry.

Read the full interview with Mr. Gameau here.



Researchers say that the addition of tubers and other starchy foods to ancient hearths helped contribute to human brain development. Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Researchers say that the addition of tubers and other starchy foods to ancient hearths helped contribute to human brain development. Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

The paleo diet has been all the rage amongst cross fitters and those wanting to lose weight. Thediet is based on the types of foods presumed (emphasis on this because there are no Pleistocene cookbooks to consult) to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.  Which means no:

  • Cereal grains (Amaranth, Barley, Brown rice, Buckwheat, Bulgur (cracked wheat), Farro, Flaxseed, Millet, Oats, Oatmeal, Muesli, and Quinoa to name a few)
  • Legumes (all beans, peas, lentils, including peanuts)
  • Dairy (Butter, Cheese, Cottage cheese, Milk, Yogurt)
  • Refined sugar
  • Starchy Vegetables (Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Yucca, Squash, Yams, Beets — though they do make exceptions for athletes who need the carbohydrates for energy...)
  • Processed foods
  • Salt
  • Refined vegetable oils

But recently, scientists have proposed that our hominin ancestors were able to fuel the evolution of our oversize brains by incorporating cooked starches into their diet.

Roughly seven million years ago, our ancestors split off from the apes. As far as scientists can tell, those so-called hominins ate a diet that included a lot of raw, fiber-rich plants.

After several million years, hominins started eating meat. The oldest clues to this shift are 3.3-million-year-old stone tools and 3.4-million-year-old mammal bones scarred with cut marks. The evidence suggests that hominins began by scavenging meat and marrow from dead animals.

At some point hominins began to cook meat, but exactly when they invented fire is a question that inspires a lot of debate. Humans were definitely making fires by 300,000 years ago, but some researchers claim to have found campfires dating back as far as 1.8 million years.

Cooked meat provided increased protein, fat and energy, helping hominins grow and thrive. But Mark G. Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London, and his colleagues argue that there was another important food sizzling on the ancient hearth: tubers and other starchy plants.

Our bodies convert starch into glucose, the body’s fuel. The process begins as soon as we start chewing: Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase, which begins to break down starchy foods

Another clue to the importance of carbohydrates, Dr. Thomas said, can be found in our DNA. Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, have two copies of the amylase gene in their DNA. But humans have many extra copies — some people have as many as 18. More copies of the amylase gene means we make more of the enzyme and are able to derive more nutrients from starches, said Dr. Thomas.

Read the full article at NYTimes.com