National Post Barbara Kay: A new documentary gives ammunition to the sugar-is-deadly warriors

National Post - Wednesday May 30th, 2018

Participants in The Magic Pill documentary rid their pantries of all high-carb, high-sugar foods — basically anything in a box.

For decades, the low-fat diet has been to health and weight as Marxism to political governance: a catastrophic failure. People are fatter and sicker than ever. Why? Because lowering fat intake results in compensatory carb intake. Especially sugar. And sugar makes you fat and unhealthy. But, like Marxists, lipophobes will never admit their first premises are wrong, even when confronted by incontrovertible evidence.

A 2017 Canadian study at McMaster University, for example, known as PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology), followed the diets of more than 135,000 people from 18 countries of varied economic status for an average of seven-and-a-half years. Their researchers found that higher fat consumption and lower carbohydrate consumption were associated with lower mortality.

This did not come as news to glucosophobes who have known for decades that any form of fat, when eaten without the complicating effects of carbohydrates, is good for us (your blood work will prove it), and that the only true poison is refined sugar. If you follow this subject closely, you soon find that lipophiles of a purist disposition — those following a paleo (low carb, the kind of diet our ancestors ate) or a “keto” regime (ketogenic — high fat, moderate protein, no carbs) — harbour the visceral contempt for lipophobia that Joe McCarthy felt for Communists.

Participants in the Australian documentary The Magic Pill gave up their sugary, high-carb diets and stocked up on oils, butter, meats, fish, eggs, nuts and avocados. Getty Images/iStockphoto

But don’t listen to me. There’s a new Australian film out on Netflix, The Magic Pill, and if you’re interested in health and its relationship to diet, you’ll find it riveting. If you are new to the debate, but assume fat is the enemy, watch with an open mind. It may change your life for the better.

The film opens with the question: “Why are so many people around the world fat and sick? Why are we dying of what seem to be preventable diseases that didn’t afflict our ancestors?” Then the film’s narrator, celebrity chef Pete Evans, who himself took the anti-sugar pledge some time ago, takes us on a journey of exploration among representatives from that obese, sick demographic to answer the question and show the simple way back to health.

The film’s production values are slick and entertaining, but its teaching method is ages old: Human stories. First, a visit to an Australian Aborigine community (which, importantly, is “dry” — the community forswore alcohol some time ago). The people there are mostly overweight, virtually all diabetic, and their cemetery reveals a sad commonality of premature death. Yet they remember that their grandfathers were lean and hardy, and died of old age. All that has changed is their colonial diet, which is high in carbohydrates, especially sugar. A group of them agree to an experiment: a 10-week retreat eating nothing but the fat, animal protein and green vegetables their grandparents lived on. Zero sugar.

Green vegetables and avocados were part of the diet adopted by participants in The Magic Pill documentary. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Evans makes the same deal with other individuals pretty well at the end of their health tethers. One obese retired nurse was dependent on a pharmacopeia of meds for her diabetes, blood pressure and related ills. She was miserable, even felt moribund. Another was overweight and asthmatic. The most fascinating subject was Abigail, a five-year-old autistic and seizure-prone girl, whose diet consisted of crackers, chicken fingers and apple juice. The parents were beside themselves trying to manage her manic behaviour.

All the subjects went through their pantries and threw out most of what was in there — cereals, crackers, pasta, sugary sauces, flour, syrups, cookies (basically anything in a box) — and stocked up with oils, butter, meats, fish, eggs, nuts and avocados. Needless to say, the film shows everyone benefiting from the trial. The obese lost masses of weight. Insulin and other diabetic meds were no longer necessary. The asthma ceased.

As you can imagine, the general claims attached to these dramatic and, admittedly, anecdotal results have caused controversy and some angry blowback. The causal links of carb elimination to blood pressure and diabetes are well established. But the documentary also tracks a cancer patient whose tumour shrinks. Is that a causal or coincidental connection? Since it may raise impossible hopes for many viewers, it’s regrettable they included it.

The obese lost masses of weight. Insulin and other diabetic meds were no longer necessary. The asthma ceased

By far the most fascinating case was Abigail. We had seen her practically bouncing off the walls before the change in diet (which took five agonizing days of willful self-starvation before capitulation). Afterward, we see her calmly sitting and drawing, holding conversations and following instructions. Her doctor swears it’s for real. “She’s able to concentrate, and she’s able to progress, because she’s not running all over the place … Her seizures are going down, and we have tangible data from the school. We are actually starting to wean her off of the anti-convulsory narcotic that she’s on.”

I know, I know. There are documentaries and then there are bogus “documentaries.” I believe this is the real McCoy. You may be skeptical. Fine. But humour me and watch it anyway.

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