Pan Macmillan sent me a copy of That Sugar Book for review.
This book is the tie-in to a film, That Sugar Film which is due to arrive here in the UK towards the end of April.
Damon Gameau decided to conduct a Super Size Me-type experiment to illustrate just how bad sugar is for us. Apparently the average daily sugar intake in Australia is 40 teaspoons per day, so Gameau decided to consume 40 teaspoons of sugar per day for sixty days, and see what happened. There was one rule, though: he wasn’t allowed to get those 40 teaspoons from junk food, fizzy drinks or sweets. Instead, the sugar had to come from foods that we would all normally perceive to be healthy – and are marketed as such. Muesli bars, frozen yoghurt, breakfast cereals, fruit snacks. Worryingly, a lot of what he ate are the sort of things marketed towards parents looking for something to put in their kids’ lunch boxes.
Before you gasp at how terribly sugary and unhealthy Australians are, here in the UK, we’re not far behind with an average daily intake of around 34 teaspoons of sugar.
This book scared the absolute living crap out of me – and I already knew that sugar was bad. Gameau’s calorie intake remained the same throughout the experiment, as it was before he started. The only thing that changed was where he got those calories from. Still, in the space of 60 days he put on 8.5 kilos, and 10cm of fat around his waist.
I read this book in two days straight. Not only was the subject matter incredibly interesting and engaging, but the book is really well written and well spaced out with lots of graphics and pictures. It’s one of those books that’s as nice to look at as it is to read.
The book is split into four sections: the actual experiment and what happened; the science about what happened during the experiment and why sugar is bad for us; a section about how Gameau got himself healthy again; and a final section with recipes. Interestingly, this book also contains a recipe for roast chicken – something that was also in Davina McCall’s 5 Weeks to Sugar Free and Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar. It makes me wonder if perhaps I’ve been cooking chicken wrong all this time; I never added sugar to begin with… but now I have three recipes that are definitely sugar free, just in case!
Davina McCall and Sarah Wilson’s books are both more lifestyle books, I think; they show the authors smiling in their kitchens, laughing with the people they’ve prepared food for. Having read Gameau’s book, I am not sure about the science behind McCall’s recipes – since she suggests you replace sugar with maple syrup or honey, which is just as bad as ordinary sugar. I Quit Sugar (also by an Australian, incidentally) contains a lot of information about sugar and why it’s bad, but when Wilson details how she was ill, and got better through not eating sugar, it doesn’t really hit home as much as an otherwise healthy person deliberately eating the average daily intake, and documenting what happens.
For me, this book stands out as something that clearly illustrates the damage we are all doing to ourselves with sugar. We’re led to believe that eating fat will make us fat, or that low GI foods are the way forward but actually, when you look at it, the main culprit is fructose – and it’s present in so many foods these days. The book also shines a light on why we’re not really told about this: the sugar industry is more powerful now than Big Tobacco was before we all realised what they were up to. They have done everything in their power to make sure their product is not seen as bad in any way, shape or form – and so we’ve all been happily shovelling it down our gullets for decades, wondering why we’re all still fat and dying of heart disease.
The book also contains an interview with Stephen Fry, where he says that as a child he would sneak into the kitchen to sprinkle sugar on butter. This really resonated with me, because when I was a teenager and my mum was out (or safely watching Coronation Street in the living room) I would sneak into the kitchen and mix margarine and sugar in a little bowl. I still can’t be trusted to make a cake without eating half the mixture before adding any eggs!
I don’t understand why this book has not caused more of a stir on its release in this country. The whole world should be talking about this; we’ve basically been hoodwinked by the food industry into becoming addicted to their crap so that we’ll buy more of their “healthy” low fat junk. They even market this stuff for children, so we buy those little boxes of raisins or those fruit leather things thinking it’s a healthy alternative to a bag of crisps when actually the sugar content is probably ten times as high. I’m hopeful that when the film is released people will sit up and take note.
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone – not just those trying to lose weight or stave off type 2 diabetes. It’s something that affects us all and after reading it, I’m determined to get both myself and S well away from all sugar.