Saturday 3 December 2016

Darragh McManus: Body-horror documentary Sugar Crash gets the less-than-sweet point across

Published 11/01/2016 | 22:58

Dr Eva Orsmond said many parents were living in denial
Dr Eva Orsmond said many parents were living in denial

Dr Eva Orsmond became famous on Operation Transformation for appearing to have a – how do I put this nicely? – somewhat bossy personality.

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She even had to apologise for making one obese contestant cry a few years back, if I recall right… which is totally ridiculous, but anyway.

My point is, Dr Eva may well be as much of a hard-nosed drill-sergeant type as she sometimes seems on the telly. And you know what? That’s a good thing.

Maybe we need someone to kick some ass, because this country is heading towards an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and liver failure. And sugar is to blame.

Sweet, sweet sugar. Sweet, sweet, sweeeet…

Sorry, I was drooling in Pavlovian response there. See? We’re all hooked on the bloody stuff.

This is something everyone knows, of course – we’ve always known it – but I didn’t quite realise how bad the situation is until I watched Sugar Crash tonight on RTE 1. This was almost less of a documentary than of a body-horror movie.

We opened on a grisly but justified shot of a child, under general anaesthetic, having surgery to remove a lot of rotten teeth. And if that wasn’t enough to make you shudder, the subsequent deluge of facts and statistics surely would.

For example: 100 Irish children go to hospital every week because of sugar-rotted teeth (it’s the sole cause of decay). There are ten teaspoons of sugar in the average soft drink. Worse, there are eight in a can of tomato soup. The WHO recommends less than six teaspoons of free, or added, sugar per day; the average Irish person consumes 24.

Ireland was the thinnest country in Europe after WWII, when putting on weight was naturally seen as good thing. By 2030, it’s predicted, we’ll be the fattest nation in Europe.

The problem started in the 1970s when, for well-meaning reasons, the fat content in much processed food was reduced. However, it was replaced with salt and, especially, sugar – which, one contributor informed us, is essentially an addictive drug.

By childhood, our brains are hardwired to respond to even a picture of sweet food. That’s because sugar release dopamine – a pleasurable chemical. It does the same thing, in biochemical terms, as illegal drugs, and meets the criteria to be classed as an addiction. So I guess it’s not as simple as just telling people “cut down on the sweet treats”.

Sugar Crash was difficult to watch at times, but a very necessary and timely warning: folks, if we don’t cut back drastically, we’re on the fast-track to a litany of serious ailments, including Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart problems, obesity and of course, those horrible rotten teeth.

And who’s to blame for all of this? The food and drinks industry, to a large extent, though of course personal responsibility plays a part too. And parents need to get educated about what, exactly, they’re giving their kids.

Many foods you’ve been told is healthy – come on down, fruit juices and follow-on milk and low-fat yoghurts – is packed with sugar. Even Dr Eva was shocked by how much sugar she had in her kitchen.

As one contributor pointed out, we keep alcohol out of the hands of children – but don’t think twice about giving them a juice or mineral. Sugar is a poisonous drug, and the first world is set to crash hard.

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