The film follows Gameau’s experiment on himself, changing from his normal diet containing no refined sugar to a ‘health-conscious’ diet low in fat but high in sugar, equivalent to 160 grams (40 tsp) of sugar per day. As a result, Gameau gained weight, grew lethargic, and developed fatty liver disease. The sugar diet was selected such that his calorie intake was not increased from his normal diet.
Interviews with experts attribute this change to the high level of sugar he was ingesting, and in particular suggest that fructose may be the main culprit. It is suggested that artificial sweeteners may be no better.
The viewers are introduced to the “bliss point“, a term coined in the 1960s which applies here to the amount of sugar you can add to a food to make it optimally desirable. Adding more sugar beyond the “bliss point” leads to a significant drop in desirability.
Following the experiment, he returned to his previous diet, and the ill effects were largely and quickly reversed
In addition to Gameau in the lead, the cast includes Hugh Jackman, Stephen Fry, Isabel Lucas, and Brenton Thwaites. Gary Taubes, Michael Moss and Dr. Kimber Stanhope gave interviews which are included, and Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel and Florence and the Machine feature on the soundtrack. Gameau’s partner, actress Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, appears in the film while pregnant with their daughter, who makes an appearance after being born during production.
American reviews for the film were generally positive. According to a review by The New York Times, the “breezy blend of computer imagery, musical numbers, sketches and offbeat field trips” made “the nutrition lessons easy to digest”. The Hollywood Reporter concluded that “Gameau clearly has good intentions, and generally succeeds in sweetening a potentially bitter subject for easy public consumption.” However, a Slate review insisted “That Sugar Film is so highly processed, and so laden with chintzy, artificial arguments, that its many weaknesses are hidden from consumers.”
A local Australian review in The Sydney Morning Herald claimed that the film is “not rigorous enough to prove anything at all”. However, the content of the article seems rather oriented towards ad-hominem attacks which have little to do with the substance of the subject.
The film is recommended as an educational resource by Documentary Australia Foundation, which notes “THAT SUGAR FILM will forever change the way you think about ‘healthy’ food”.
- “That Sugar Film (2015)”. The Numbers. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Engber, Daniel (10 August 2015). “That *#^% Sugar Film”. Slate. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Gameau, Damon (27 June 2015). “I ate 40 teaspoons of sugar a day. This is what happened”. The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Gold, Daniel (30 July 2015). “Review: In ‘That Sugar Film,’ a Bitter Truth”. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Dalton, Stephen (28 June 2015). “‘That Sugar Film’: Film Review”. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Wilson, Jake (5 March 2015). “That Sugar Film review: Powerful propaganda proves little”. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Russell, Stephen (24 May 2019). “Sugar coating complex science, Damon Gameau’s ‘That Sugar Film’ inspires”. SBS Australia. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
- “That Sugar Film”. Documentary Foundation Australia. 18 March 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
- Buckmaster, Luke (2 March 2015). “That Sugar Film: how 60 days of eating ‘health food’ led to fatty liver disease”. The Guardian.
- Simon, Alissa (13 July 2015). “Film Review: ‘That Sugar Film'”. Variety.