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A brief history of Australia's anti-sugar advocates

Jamie Oliver is one of the world’s most recognisable celebrity chefs and regardless of whether you love him or hate him, you can’t deny that when he gets passionately outraged about something he actually takes action to fix what he perceives to be the problem. 

A decade ago it was school lunches and now he has his sights set firmly on the sugar industry; more specifically on the soft drink industry. If you missed Jamie’s Sugar Rush on Channel Ten last week, you can watch the replay in full here.

Perhaps one of the most startling revelations from the program was the hidden sugar found in foods that are perceived to be healthy. The citizens of western countries including Australia and England are now consuming an average of 40 teaspoons of sugar a day, but not all of this comes from outwardly sweet treats like chocolate, lollies, and ice cream. Consider this brief segment on breakfast:



Health organisations recommend adults consume no more than 7 teaspoons of sugar a day, yet this ‘healthy’ breakfast clocks in at a whopping 14.1 teaspoons of sugar, slightly over double the daily recommended intake before 9am (or 12pm if you’re a university student). We’ll let the shock of that settle, but there will be more about sugar in foods perceived to be healthy later.

Not surprisingly, Jamie Oliver isn’t the first person to take aim at sugar. What may come as a surprise is the fact that the anti-sugar movement has its roots set firmly in Australia, with authors like David Gillespie and Sarah Wilson raising awareness about the dangers of a high-sugar diet as far back in time as 2008. Sugar has a bad reputation at the moment and if you’re wondering why, we’re here to give you a crash course on the history of sugar’s major opponents in Australia.

David Gillespie burst into public awareness in late 2008 when his first book Sweet Poison: Why sugar makes us fat was published. Prior to writing the book, David was 40kg overweight and in need of a major lifestyle overhaul—he was already the father of four children and had twins on the way. He’d had limited success with other diets, and after some intense research he cut sugar, specifically fructose, from his diet, and his weight finally began to shift. 

The connection between sugar, twenty-first century diseases, and the soaring obesity rates (not just in Australia but in all western countries) was now frighteningly clear for David, and Sweet Poison is the culmination of his research into the relationship between increasing sugar intake and decreasing health conditions. David offers substantial evidence in support of this connection by demonstrating how Australia lives have changed in the space of 150 years, where we have gone from eating no added sugar to more than a kilogram a week. He also presents practical and easy-to-follow guidelines to avoid fructose and lose weight. Since Sweet Poison, David has written numerous other books such as The Sweet Poison Quit Plan, Big Fat Liesand Eat Real Food, and is one of the country’s most prominent anti-sugar advocates. 

In January 2011, Sarah Wilson experimented with quitting sugar while she was writing her column in Sunday Life, The Sun-Herald’s weekly magazine lift-out. Having been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2008, Sarah dedicated her columns and her personal blog to document her wellness journey, and encouraged readers to discover new ways to live healthier and happier lives. 

Like David, she undertook extensive research and conducted countless interviews with leading health experts when writing her articles to uncover the secret world of the sugar industry. The response to her articles was overwhelmingly positive, which led Sarah onto the path of publishing the I Quit Sugar ebook. The ebook was an overwhelming success and was turned into a physical I Quit Sugar, published in 2012. It has since gone on to sell over 100K copies in Australia. In addition to this, an eight-week IQS program was launched online, which has seen over half a million people quit sugar worldwide since its inception. 

The second book, I Quit Sugar for Life, was published in 2014 and solidified Sarah’s status as one of the pre-eminent anti-sugar advocates in Australia. While I Quit Sugar focuses on the initial phase-out of sugar with an easy to follow weekly plan, I Quit Sugar for Life is full of additional recipes, hints, and tricks to help readers kick their sugar habit for good. 

A third book, I Quit Sugar: Simplicious, hit our shelves this week. Sarah is now in a war against waste. With her new book, she aims to make scraps sexy again and show readers how to minimise waste with meticulously researched kitchen hacks. It features 306 recipes and is the ultimate guide for readers who want to kick sugar out of their lives to embrace the ‘simpliciousness’ of life-affirming, health-giving, planet-saving real food.

The assault on sugar from Australians isn’t just limited to overtly sweet junk food, though. Actor and filmmaker Damon Gameau drastically overhauled his diet and lifestyle by reducing his sugar intake to impress his now-partner, Zoe Tuckwell-Smith. The staggering health improvements he witnessed prompted him to investigate the benefits of eliminating sugar, so he turned to his chosen artistic medium to document his findings: film. 

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For 60 days, Damon committed to (and documented) eating the Australian average sugar intake of 40 teaspoons per day; however, he would only consume foods marketed as ‘healthy’, such as low-fat yoghurts, juices, smoothies, and cereals. The results were spectacular…ly awful. Damon gained 9kg and significantly increased his propensity to be diagnosed with illnesses such as diabetes and fatty liver disease. Since release, Damon’s documentary has smashed previous records to become the highest grossing Australian documentary of all time.

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The corresponding book, That Sugar Book, is a bright and beautifully-designed book that summarises Damon’s 60-day experiment and also contains advice on living a sugar-free diet with the help of over 30 quick and simple recipes. Importantly, Damon includes a breakdown of food labels so readers can truly understand what is being added to their ‘healthy’ alternatives. 

So there you have it. We’ve barely scratched the surface on the anti-sugar movement in Australia, but these big three have been instrumental in raising social awareness of the danger of a high-sugar diet. Jamie Oliver is taking action by imposing a sugary soft-drink tax in his restaurants, and he’s encouraging other food outlets to follow suit, as well as lobbying the government for support.

We’re all about leading healthy and balanced lives here at Dymocks, and while we’re not suggesting that we’re health experts in any way, the data that supports the anti-sugar argument is certainly making us rethink our juice breaks. 

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Posted by Global Administrator on 01/10/2015