Whatever you believe about the best diet to control diabetes, this new documentary "Fat Head" is bound to shake up those beliefs. I have been studying and trying to practice good nutrition for years, and even so, some parts of it disturbed me. Still, most of it delighted me. This is a funny movie.
About half way through I almost stopped watching. "Fat Head" was beginning to look like a movie in praise of fast food.
A guy named Tom Naughton wrote, directed, and starred in this 104 minute film. Like Morgan Spurlock in his 2004 documentary "Super Size Me," Naughton lived on fast food for a month. But unlike Spurlock, Naughton lost weight.
For one thing, Naughton didn't eat anywhere the 5,000 daily calories that Spurlock claimed to consume. But neither did Spurlock, according to Naughton, who says that it doesn't jibe with the record. For another thing, Naughton ate a lot more wisely, limiting himself to 100 grams of carbohydrate per day.
That's how the new documentary starts off. Since I never eat at fast food restaurants -- except one that specializes in great salads -- I was disturbed. Then, I heard Naughton say in the movie, "A fast food diet is not a good diet."
And the movie moved on. It turns out that Naughton wasn't making an apologia for fast food. The fast food industry, he says, is not at fault for what he calls the "so-called obesity epidemic," which he argues is really a high blood glucose epidemic. Instead, he argues for personal responsibility and against government intervention and interventionists like Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who he calls "a tireless propagator of junk science."
But Naughton reserves his greatest contempt for Ancel Keys, who got so famous that Time magazine featured him on its cover for his manipulating the "lipid hypothesis" statistics in the "Seven Countries Study." Data from those seven countries seemed to show a relationship between a diet high in saturated fat and heart disease, but Keys conveniently ignored data from even more countries that didn't fit his hypothesis, which then became -- and still is -- the accepted wisdom of our medical establishment.
This makes "Fat Head" sound like a serious, dull movie. It is anything but that. In fact, it's closer to being a comedy than anything else. Naughton is a professional comedian who is also a former health writer. Consequently, "Fat Head" both funny and exceedingly thought-provoking.
Naughton just didn't eat in fast food restaurants, mostly McDonald's. He also went around interviewing real people. The people he talked with were men and women in the street as well as experts like Michael Eades, M.D., and his wife Mary Dan Eades, M.D., the authors of Protein Power; Mary Enig, Ph.D., and Sally Fallon, the authors of The Skinny on Fat; Al Sears, M.D., the founder and director of The Wellness Research Foundation and the author of The Doctor's Heart Cure; J. Eric Oliver, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago and the author of Fat Politics; and Reason magazine editor Jacob Sullum.
And Naughton even roped in members of his family, interviewing his mother and his wife. One of my favorite lines from the film was when Naughton went into the bedroom where his wife was was reading a magazine on the bed. He asked her to tell us how much better their sex life was on his new diet.
She paused dramatically. And then she replied, "Are you really a moron?"
So we don't learn all the benefits of wise eating. But we can get the point. And Naughton not only lost weight but also improved his cholesterol numbers.
The best of anything shakes us up. And for me the really disturbing statement in this documentary was that statistics -- correlations -- of people who have a high normal BMI or are even overweight live longer than people whose BMI is at the low end of the scale. Like mine. I find that hard to accept, and of course I don't believe everything that I read or hear, but I will look into it for a future article here. Request: any leads to those studies or insights explaining them.
I bought one of the first copies. It was certainly worth the money for both the entertainment and information that I got from watching "Fat Head."