Do you like to be entertained and educated at the same time? If so, then this may be just the DVD for you. Intended partially as a response to the movie Super Size Me!, but also to educate people about common nutritional myths, comedian Tom Naughton has put together a documentary film that is partly education, partly in-your-face satire, and partly the story of one man's journey through the zany nutritional culture of the early 21st century.
The Anti-"Super Size Me"
The central action of the movie revolves around a fast-food experiment. In the 2003 documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock goes on a fast-food diet for a month where he stuffs himself with as much McDonalds food as he possibly can (at one point he throws up, he has eaten so much) and stops exercising entirely, even taking cabs for what would have been short walks. He gains a bunch of weight and lots of health problems. Naughton is skeptical that the fast food per se was Spurlock's problem, but rather the choices he made. Naughton decides to eat fast food for a month, but to "use his functioning brain" and make more intelligent choices. He limits his carb count to 100 per day, and his calories to 2000. And by the end, he has lost 12 pounds, has a lower body fat percentage, and no adverse health reactions.
Note that Naughton is not advocating a fast-food diet, but, rather, using our own "functioning brains" when making food choices.
Myth-Busting: Great Stuff
Along the way Naughton gives us some entertaining history lessons: How we came to believe that fat in our diets was bad, how we came to believe that humans should eat a lot of grains (no other mammals eat grains as their natural food), and other commonly-held nutritional beliefs. It's sort of a fast-forward version of the first part of Gary Taubes' book Good Calories, Bad Calories.
Naughton also attempts to debunk some of the prevailing myths around the obesity epidemic. He points out the the average weight gain in the last few decades is 8 to 10 pounds, and that a good percentage of this can be explained by the aging of the population and shifts in ethnicity (and, I would add, less smoking).
My favorite parts of the film were the interviews with nutritional experts and some GREAT animations of human physiology. If you are having trouble understanding the connection between carbohydrates, insulin, and weight gain, you'll love Naughton's animations.
Not So Great Stuff
I don't like to be the person who rains on someone else's fun. Furthermore, I've read many reviews of this film and no one else seems to feel the way I do about some of the comedy in the movie, so I'm totally willing to chalk this up to different people having different senses of humor. But for me, the film would have been improved by dropping some of the sarcastic tone, which at times crossed over into being mean-spirited. I don't think many true advances come from making fun of other people, however entertaining some seem to find it. On the other hand, by the time I finished watching I realized that this was not what the majority of the movie was about, and as it progressed there was less and less of it, which I was thankful for.
Another suggestion I would make is to narrow the scope of the movie a bit and tighten the editing. It is SO free-ranging that it can be a bit dizzying at times. Also, some implications weren't well-explained. For example, the importance of fat to growing brains is well-taken, but I think it's a stretch to connect fat-free milk and ADD.
Still, these are minor criticisms in a movie that has so much great stuff to offer. It will have you looking at nutritional news through new eyes!
2013 Update In 2013, Naughton came out with a "Director's Cut" of the film, which includes some slight re-edits, and a section at the end of updates in the science in the years since the film came out. Also he tells of some diet changes he and his family have made since the film.
About the DVD
This DVD is 104 minutes, includes extended interviews with many of the experts interviewed in the film. It is available in DVD and streaming formats.
See Clips of the Film at the Web Site