Sunday, 25 August 2013

Review of Tom Naughton's Documentary 'Fat Head: You've Been Fed a Load of Bologna'

Tom Naughton was deeply annoyed by Morton Spurlock (of 'Super Size Me' fame), in his hypocritical claims that it was the high-fat and inherent toxicity of MacDonald's food that caused Spurlock to gain weight (on purpose to sell his film...). Naughton, not content to simmer in his irritation, channelled his ire into a wickedly creative, intellectual and critical endeavour of his own: 'Fat Head: You've Been Fed a Load of Bologna', released in 2009, produced by Page Ostrow and Susan Smiley.

I recently found this entire documentary on Youtube, and it is well and truly worth a look:

Its quite a long doco, and could probably have done with a little more editing. But I found myself forgivingly patient about that because Naughton's deeply silly humour, stunning depth of research, impressive array of expert interviews, and charming animations all made it quite a pleasure to watch, all 144 minutes of it. The first half of it meanders somewhat repetitively through some pretty funny scepticism about Spurlock's claims. But the second half is particularly rigorous and informative, while still offering quite a giggle or two. By the end of it, I decided I loved Tom, wanted to tickle him, and give him a pony.

Fat Head manages to explore the question of diet and blood lipids from the angles of biochemistry and physiology, that of politics and nutritional policy history in the U.S., and from the perspective of critical interpellation of racialised and pathologising discourses of the 'obesity epidemic'. The real epidemic, as Naughton shows, is not fat bottoms and bulging bellies, but insulin resistance - and skinny white people get that too!

There is actually a much more detailed explanation of the roles of HDL and LDL in cholesterol transport, of the mechanism of atherosclerotic plaque formation, and of the effects of high insulin release on metabolism than can be found in most university level physiology textbooks. This guy talked to some very knowledgeable clinicians, did his homework, and actually presents an account of metabolic syndrome that remains up to date in 2013 in an area of high intensity biomedical research.

Every person who is trying to improve their blood lipid profile, stabilise their blood sugar or lose weight should watch this film.

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