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.

rats sugar cocaine

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.

Thanks for reading.

You can read my other book reviews here!

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


Natalie Ray · 30/03/2015 at 09:55

This is fascinating, I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for the book – and keep an eye on my sugar intake!x

Sarah Doyle - let them be small · 30/03/2015 at 19:53

I saw you post about this on IG and I’ve been looking since then for a sugar free cookbook – don’t suppose you can reccomend one?
I’m going to order this book anyway and have a good read of it
thanks so much for sharing

Gary Miller · 30/03/2015 at 21:46

Yikes… who knew sugar was this bad? Truthfully I knew it was pretty darn bad by doing some reading on Paleo and Vegan blogs but wow. The particularly sinister thing about sugar is it’s everywhere, even tucked away in foods you wouldn’t think of. I might have to pick this book up. Thanks for sharing!

    Vicky Charles · 30/03/2015 at 21:57

    Thanks Gary. It’s scary, isn’t it. Once you start to read packets in supermarkets… your basket becomes very light! It’s all very sinister!

chantelle hazelden · 31/03/2015 at 13:12

sounds like an interesting read, I’ve read a few snippets from Davina’s book and it’s something to definitely think about, thanks for sharing with #readwithme x

Sharon Powell · 01/04/2015 at 20:38

I think this looks good and really informative but I just don’t think I could stay away from sugar. I have taken it out of a lot of foods I was using but I know I couldn’t cut it out completely x #readwithme

    Vicky Charles · 02/04/2015 at 17:23

    I think it’s easier to cut it out completely than just cut back to be honest – when I’ve cut back in the past it’s gradually crept back up over time. If you cut it out completely then there’s no chance for that to happen – plus I’m hoping that after a month or so, sugary foods will just not taste good because I’ll be more sensitive to the overly sweet taste… that’s the plan any way!

Ruebi · 03/04/2015 at 12:15

I remember you posting a photo on IG for this and meant to send you a message about it (then life got rather hectic…sigh)! I’ve been watching a few shows about where our food comes from and how it is processed and my word, the amount of sugar (in various forms hidden under different very confusing names) found in foods marketed as ‘healthy’ is just unbelievable and downright scary…It’s turned me into a bit of a label reader when I go shopping.

Anyway, I’ve since ordered this for my Kindle (because I’m impatient and couldn’t wait for a hard copy of the book to arrive), so guess what I’ll be reading this Easter weekend!

    Vicky Charles · 03/04/2015 at 12:29

    Ooh brilliant, do let me know what you think of it!
    I already knew all this crap was in our food, in a sort of abstract way where it’s easy to ignore. I found this book put it in a way that was impossible to ignore.

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